Family law solicitors have been campaigning for a long time for a change in the law around divorce. The current law has one ground for divorce – irretrievable breakdown of the marriage but then you have to go on and explain the reason. Either you are waiting for 2 years (with both of you agreeing) or 5 years if not and if you want to divorce straight away, you have to point to blame. It will either be that one spouse saying the other has committed adultery or making comment about their behaviour.
And that is the problem. The current law, if you want to get divorced now, means that pointing the finger of blame. Going through a marriage breakdown can be painful. Playing it out in a court and paying out in legal fees to do it is not the best way to move forward.
In September 2018, the Ministry of Justice asked for comment about a change in the law to make divorce a ‘no fault’. What this would mean is no need to point the finger. The divorce would still be because the marriage is broken down but there would only be a waiting period before the divorce is finalised.
It is suggested that a 6 month waiting period would be right. Some say it should be from the date the divorce petition went into the court, others say from the date of the decree nisi. With the delays at court, I think it should be 6 months from the date the divorce petition goes to court. That means the delays at court would not affect people divorcing. There is also a suggestion that there should be no defence or opposition to a divorce petition. I think that is fair. You can’t force someone to stay married to you. If the marriage is broken down, then if one spouse is saying it is, it is.
The Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, has agreed that the law should be changed and he has said he will be proposing a new law to Parliament in May 2019.
So, we cold be seeing a major change in divorce law….. but I think not for a few months as it takes time to get the law changed. Keep an eye on the newspapers to see how things are progressing.