On Saturday 15 September 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) launched a consultation project for the reform of our divorce laws. The MoJ is inviting all interested parties from solicitors, barristers and member of the public to comment and express their views. You can give your views on line – the link is at the bottom of this article.
What’s all the fuss? Well, its been all over the news recently but in a nutshell, if you want to get divorce before being separated for 5 years, you can only do it by pointing the finger of blame at the other party or by agreement after a separation of 2 years. What’s the problem with that? Well, if the marriage if over, does it help the couple to sort things out and move forward if they have to ‘blame’ one of them for the breakdown of the marriage? I think it does not and I think it makes the situation worse.
If one person does not want to be married to another, what is the point of arguing over the why?
Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said:
“Marriage will always be one of our most important institutions, but when a relationship ends it cannot be right for the law to create or increase conflict between divorcing couples.
That is why we will remove the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future.”
Proposals detailed in the consultation include:
• retaining the sole ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage
• removing the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart
• introducing a new notification process where one, or possibly both parties, can notify the court of the intention to divorce
• removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application
The consultation also seeks views on the minimum timeframe for the process between the interim decree of divorce (decree nisi) and final decree of divorce (decree absolute). This will allow couples time to reflect on the decision to divorce and to reach agreement on arrangements for the future where divorce is inevitable.
The announcement delivers on the Justice Secretary’s commitment to reform these aspects of divorce law, and bring the UK in line with other countries who already have similar procedures.
My view is that this is a good thing. The common objection is that it would make marriage and divorce ‘too easy’. In fact, what the research shows is that where this type of reform has been introduced in other jurisdictions, the rate of divorce reduces rather than increases. When I have someone contacts me about divorce, the hardest decision they have made is that the marriage is over and they want to be divorced. It is rare that they have even thought about what the law says about it or the legal process. Being told they have to allege fault or blame, doesn’t change the decision that they thing their marriage is over and they want to be divorced; it does mean that they are more concerned about not being able to do it amicably.
I will be responding to the consultation and hoping that our divorce laws will be changed to be more progressive. I will be taking part in the consultation. Will you?
Click on the link and spend a couple of minutes to be involved: