Couples facing divorce will no longer have to point the finger to allocate blame in order to end their marriage.
Since the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, anyone seeking a divorce must play the ‘blame game’. For a divorce to be approved, one must prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, due to their spouse’s bad behaviour or adultery. Alternatively, if the couple are agreeable, they are able to divorce after two years of being separated. However, if the couple are not in agreement and cannot prove fault, they must wait until they have been living apart for five years before they can issue divorce proceedings.
A pivotal point for change became apparent after the Tini Owens case. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Owens could not divorce her husband until a period of five years had elapsed as her husband did not agree to the divorce. This meant she was ‘trapped’ in a marriage which she no longer wanted to be a part of, which caused her mental stress. She stated that “I am very pleased to hear that legislation is due to be brought in, and hope that in the future, couples will not have to endure the long and complicated divorce process that I have been going through.”
The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, believes that current divorce laws are “out of touch with modern life” and that “the blame game that currently exists helps nobody.” Ministers have vowed that no fault divorces will be introduced as soon as possible, in order to reduce the conflict between separating couples and the harm this causes their children.
It is hoped that Mr Gauke will enact legislation in the next Parliamentary session, which will see the end of couples having to prove fault in order to obtain a divorce.
The proposed legislative changes include:
- Making “the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage” the sole ground for divorce
- Removing the need to live apart, or provide proof of the spouse’s misconduct
- A new Court notification process that can be triggered by one or both parties
- Removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce
Having to prove blame encourages hostility and often only serves to worsen an already strained relationship between the parties. The law has remained unchanged for almost 50 years and so this change is very much welcomed.
At Rosewood Solicitors, we believe in a non-confrontational approach and we support the no fault divorce reform. If you would like further advice, contact our Family Team on 01483 901414 to book your free consultation.