Divorce law reform and no-fault divorce
Lester Aldridge Solicitors Life Matters for Lymington.com readers - April 2019
The government has announced its commitment to a reform of divorce law, introducing no-fault divorce which hopes to remove the painful battles that couples often face when divorcing.
Free consultation with a Lester Aldridge family lawyer
The latest in the Lester Aldridge Life Matters series, this article discusses the background to the upcoming changes in divorce law. Lester Aldridge offer a free initial consultation with a member of their highly qualified, dedicated family law team, so if this is a subject which is pertinent to you do get in touch - see below.
The need for divorce law reform
The memorable case of Owens v Owens (2018) demonstrated the need to reform divorce law within England and Wales. In this case, Mrs Owens was stuck in her unhappy marriage for 5 years after Mr Owens disputed her divorce petition – which undoubtedly increased both parties’ costs and slowed down their divorce process.
Following this case, the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, recognised the need to reform the law and launched a consultation last autumn. It has now been confirmed that the government is committed to introducing legislation to reform divorce law.
Divorce law – how it currently stands
The current legislation provides that the individual who starts proceedings must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down based on one of the following:
- Unreasonable behaviour or
- Separation of a minimum of 2 years, with consent
- If contested, the requirement of separation significantly increases to 5 years’, as seen in Owens v Owens (2018).
However, these grounds for divorce are not always suitable for everyone and can often exacerbate the situation.
For example, relying on adultery can be painful for both parties, it can be a distressing reminder for the individual who has been mistreated and it can make the other party feel uncomfortable.
Citing unreasonable behaviour which is commonly relied upon, can also exacerbate the situation. Unless the behaviours set out in the petition are carefully worded, it can add further animosity and unnecessary confrontation into a situation which is already difficult. Couples find themselves entering into the blame game and any hope of remaining amicable throughout the divorce process can quickly be lost.
Whilst of course separation of a minimum of 2 or 5 years prolongs the process with an obvious negative effect on both parties.
How can the introduction of no-fault divorce law benefit you if you are thinking of divorcing?
No-fault divorce should cause less animosity and confrontation throughout the divorce process, by removing the need to blame the other party in order to obtain a divorce.
The process should be quicker and more efficient, allowing couples to divorce in a more cost-effective way.
It should also lower stress levels for both the couple and their children and wider family.
Consult a solicitor to obtain the best outcome in divorce
Although this divorce law reform may appear to make the process more straight forward, it is important to note that it is still beneficial to instruct a solicitor to guide you through your divorce, particularly in relation to the financial settlement, in order to obtain the best outcome for you and as efficiently as possible.
Need further advice?
Relationship breakdown is never easy but the Lester Aldridge specialist divorce solicitors offer a practical and sympathetic ear to help guide you through this difficult time.
Jane Porter, Joanne Clark and Rosemary Sharp understand that the breakdown of a relationship is often stressful and emotionally charged. They will always seek to reduce hostility and conflict, to minimise unnecessary disputes whilst focussing on getting you the best outcome possible..
The team are also members of Resolution, the professional body that encourages a non-confrontational approach to resolving family disputes. The aim is to be fair but firm, but when necessary a robust approach will of course be adopted to deal with difficult and opposing points of view.