Divorce laws could soon change to make it easier to leave your spouse

By Conor Matchett
Tuesday, 09 April, 2019, 11:09
The laws surrounding divorce could change following a government consultation (Photo: Shutterstock)

The government has signalled it is looking at changing the law surrounding divorce in England and Wales to make it easier for couples to split.

Under the current rules, married couples must either live apart for a significant length of time (known as a ‘no-fault’ divorce) or place blame on one half of the couple.

The Ministry of Justice ran a consultation with the public to see if proposed changes to the law in England and Wales would be welcomed by the public.

What are the current rules?

As it stands, couples must place blame on one of them in order to successfully divorce.

In legal terms, couples must show the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”.

Reasons that can be used include adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion (when a partner leaves with no explanation or good reason for more than two years), or separation.

What are the proposed changes?

The government intends to change the law to allow couples to simply state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, rather than needing to prove any of the reasons for the split.

This will make divorce potentially quicker, cheaper, and less emotionally stressful for couples who decide to go through with the process.

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The changes will also remove the ability of one half of the couple refusing a divorce.

There may also be a new option to allow couples to apply for a divorce jointly.

It will still take months for a divorce to go through, with a minimum period of six months between the first stage - the petition stage, to decree absolute - the document that legally ends a marriage.

At the end of the six months, the person requesting the divorce will have to continue to state they want the divorce.

Nigel Winter, partner at the law firm DMH Stallard, said, "It has to be remembered that, after a divorce, a family still has to function. By avoiding a process that encourages hostility, these proposals help achieve that."

What are the government saying?

Speaking to the BBC, Justice Secretary David Gauke said, “Frankly, we are not going to keep marriages together by having a divorce process that just makes it more acrimonious [and] tries to apportion blame in such a way that the couple are likely to have a weaker, poorer relationship subsequently than they would otherwise do.”

He added the changes will also aim to reduce conflict between parents of children affected by divorce which in turn would damage their children’s future.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, The Yorkshire Post