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Time called on divorce blame game

Ministers have finally called time on the blame game, allowing couples to divorce without putting their spouse at fault.

A spouse will simply be able to declare ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage, without having to cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, which is required under the current system.

Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said: “While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”

There have been calls to reform the law for many years and the Bill has gone before parliament on several occasions without success.

Mr Gauke added: “I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe that now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”

David Kirkman, specialist divorce solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, welcomed the decision, and commented: “The current fault-based system does not reflect modern society and often results in animosity between divorcing couples. This makes it far more difficult for them to reach amicable decisions, particularly where children are involved.

Even in situations where the divorce is amicable and no one wants to allege that the other person has done something wrong, the only options are to allege fault or wait until the couple have been separated for at least 2 years.”

Under the proposed changes, there will no longer be a requirement to prove either person is ‘at fault’. Instead, the person seeking the divorce will simply need to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

In addition, under the reforms:

  • There will be a minimum timeframe of 6 months from the application until the divorce is finalised, to allow time for reflection;
  • Couples will be able to initiate the divorce separately or jointly; and
  • There will no longer be an option of contesting a divorce.

The new laws will apply to England and Wales, where more than 100,000 marriages end every year.