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No fault divorce – change is finally on the way

The government is expected to launch a consultation on the merits of ‘no-fault’ divorce within the next few months.

This is a move welcomed by many divorce lawyers who have campaigned long and hard for a change in the law of divorce in England and Wales.

As the law currently stands, the only way a person can get a divorce within two years of separating is to prove that the other person has either committed adultery or that their behaviour means it is unreasonable for them to live together.  Allegations such as these can increase acrimony and hurt, making an already difficult process harder.

The demands for change have intensified since the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Tini Owens.

Mrs Owens (68) had petitioned for a divorce after moving out of the family home in 2015. She told the court that she was ‘wretchedly unhappy’ and that her husband’s behaviour made her feel unloved and untrusted.

When the judge at first instance rejected her application, Mrs Owens took her case to the Court of Appeal, who upheld the ruling. Her only option then was to take her case to the Supreme Court.

Although the Supreme Court was sympathetic to her plight, it was, albeit reluctantly, bound to apply the law as it currently stands.  Now the government is consulting on a change to the law that will remove any need to make allegations about the other person.

David Kirkman, specialist divorce solicitor at Atherton Godfrey commented:

“There can be little doubt that the current law on divorce is in need of reform.  There is a large gulf between contemporary British attitudes and the law which was made in the 1960s.

What animates most family lawyers to demand reform is not the ‘intellectual dishonesty’ of the current system as it works in practice; it is the effect on the separating couple and their children.

Family law should be focused on the future, for the sake of everyone involved.  It is deeply unhelpful to require one person dredge up past grievances in order to obtain a divorce that both people agree should happen.

Everyone benefits if separating couples can find a non-confrontational and constructive way to sort out finances and child arrangements.  Changing the law on divorce could help this happen.  There is a wide coalition of bodies calling for reform, including Resolution and the Marriage Foundation.  It seems the government is listening and change is finally on its way.”

If you are considering divorce, make sure you are know what your legal rights are – contact our family law team on 01302 320621.

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