The Government have announced today that they will be changing the law to allow no fault divorce. This comes on the back of years of campaigning by Resolution, an organisation of family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Family Lawyers and Judges have been saying for years that a change in the divorce law is overdue. The current legislation dates from 1973 and at present, couples have to either blame the other on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion or have to wait for two years if they want a no fault divorce by agreement. Some spouses have been left in a position where they haven’t been able to divorce for 5 years because the other spouse has not agreed to a divorce. This was highlighted by the Supreme Court Case of Owens and Owens last year.
The reality is that society has moved on since 1973 and the law badly needs an update. The current law creates tension and blame which is unnecessary where adults have decided that their marriage has broken down. It is important that parties to a divorce separate as amicably as possible, particularly where there are children involved and the adults will have to co-parent after their divorce.
Following a public consultation, the Government have today announced there will be a change in the law when parliamentary time allows. The announcement confirms that the need for evidence of adultery, desertion or behaviour will go and this will be replaced by a general ground of irretrievable breakdown. There will also be an option for a joint application for a divorce and the current option to defend a divorce will go.
Lucy Mead, head of the family department at David Gray Solicitors said “This announcement is long overdue. In my experience, the current divorce law creates an added layer of blame, which does not help what already can be a very difficult situation. The new law that is to be introduced will mean that blame doesn’t need to be apportioned and couples won’t need to wait for two years to have a no fault divorce. This can only be a good thing for couples who are separating, particularly where there are children involved”.