Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has confirmed he will bring new divorce law legislation forward “at the earliest opportunity” following on from an overwhelming response to the consultation.
In September 2018, Gauke published a consultation paper proposing a change to the legal requirements for divorce and received more than 600 responses. One of the leaders of family law organisation Resolution, Nigel Shepherd, explained:
“It is clear that the responses to the consultation have demonstrated overwhelming support for this important reform and we’re pleased the government are so firmly behind it.”
What are the grounds for divorce in England and Wales?
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, divorces are only granted if:
- it can be proven their partner is at fault through either adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour,
- if both parties agree and have been separated for two years, or
- in the absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for five years.
According to recent statistics, around 60 per cent of the 100,000 divorces a year in England and Wales are granted on the fault-based grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
Following the Tini Owens case last year, demands for reform in divorce law mounted. The supreme court ruled in July 2018 that Owens could not divorce her husband of 40 years until the five-year separation period had passed. Due to this landmark case, current divorce laws have been labelled archaic as they have remained unaltered for almost 50 years.
What is a no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce was first introduced by the Family Law Act 1996, but was never brought into force because it was deemed unworkable.
The new plans, while will apply to both marriage and civil partnerships, will enable couples to get divorced by simply giving notice that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, putting an end to fault-based divorces which can be extremely damaging to couples and their children.
David Gauke concluded:
“We think the ‘blame game’ that currently exists helps no one. It created unnecessary antagonism and anxiety at an already trying time for couples and in particular where there are children.”