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Will a new divorce law end the ‘blame game’?

You may have heard of the Government introducing a Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which was announced by the Justice Secretary, David Gauke on 9 April 2019. This is the biggest shakeup of divorce law in 50 years and many of you are questioning whether it will reform the “blame game” or not.

Under the current legislation of England and Wales, for a couple to divorce they must live apart for a certain period or satisfy that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. As a result, this is being perceived as accusing one partner be “at fault”. For more information on the current legislation of divorce please read our blog here.

What are the proposals?

The reform of the current legislation is a result of the Supreme Court’s judgement in 2018 in the case of Owens v Owens. This is a well-recognised case, where Mrs Owen’s appeal was rejected as her husband refused to agree to the divorce. This new ‘no-fault divorce’ legislation will enable couples to apply for a divorce together, this will create a more amicable situation for everyone it affects.

• Creates an option for joint application for divorce. However, it will also retain the option for one party to initiate the process.
• Removes the chance for the other party to object to the divorce.
• Introduces a minimum time frame of 6 months from petition to decree absolute.

Why do people want a ‘no-fault’ divorce?

Many people want a divorce as they have grown apart from one another. This is where it is hard as if you do not want to wait the two years, they will need to think of some sort of unreasonable behaviour. This is where ‘blame’ is set on one partner and can cause tension. Additionally, many couples may find themselves stuck in a marriage, as their partner does not agree on the divorce. For example Mrs Owen’s in Owens v Owens.

David Gauke wants to allow couples to move on amicably and stated, “It cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by causing couples to blame each other.” Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse also agrees that this reform is a positive step. This reform will enable more time to be focused on childcare arrangements and dividing assets.

Are there any consequences?

A few people think that this reform will diminish the sanctity of marriage and will create a negative impact on families. Conservative Fiona Bruce believes in the importance of couples remaining together and relies on evidence to support her view, that even in argumentative relationships the stability of marriage benefits the child. Tony MP Eddie Hughes has also raised his concerns about a “spike” in the number of divorces, due to it being an easier process. On the contrast, Mr Gauke said this rise is inevitable due to couples holding off their separation until this new, easier legislation takes place.

When will it take place?

You may be wondering why nothing has happened yet and what is going? The bill is due to have the report stage and third hearing in the House of Commons, however, the date for this is to be announced. Due to Boris Johnson suspending the House of Commons, all the bills passing through Parliament are delayed; this includes the high-profile divorce law. Majority of Parliament were in favour of this bill but for the moment the passing has slowed down due to the circumstances. David Gauke said he is left disappointment as reform on divorce law is long overdue.

For any help in relation to this topic please contact Salma Butt in the Family Team at Freeman Harris Solicitors on 020 7790731, or alternatively email contact@freemanharris.co.uk and we will be able to help.

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