There’s no dancing around it – divorce is tough. But an important new legislation has been put in place for couples going through the separation making it slightly easier by preventing unnecessary conflict and family upset in the process.
The change in law will mean that couples who want to end their marriages will no longer have to ascribe blame or wait for years before finalising their separation, thanks to what has been called a no-fault divorce.
Prior to this, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales stated that a couple must either allocate blame for the breakdown of the marriage, or – if both members of the couple agree – wait two years after separation to complete the divorce. And that’s not all; the law also stated that if there is an absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for five years.
Understandably, this has historically made divorce very difficult for married couples – a prime example being last summer’s Tini Owens case in which the Supreme Court rejected her appeal to divorce her husband on the ground of being unhappy.
However, things have now changed as Justice Secretary David Gauke has confirmed that the no-fault divorce will mean that divorcing couples will no longer have to allocate blame or mutually consent to end their marriage. The new legislation will also include a minimum timeframe of six months from petition stage to a marriage being ended and will prevent people from refusing a divorce if their spouse wants one.
Commenting on the new legislation, divorce solicitors Goodman Ray, said: ‘We were all very disappointed regarding the decision from the Supreme Court in Owens and Owens which confirmed that Mrs Owens should remain married to Mr Owens on the test of the current law.’
‘However, this case has triggered parliament to talk and with the help of Resolution, Family Lawyers are campaigning for Parliament to change the law and allow couples to separate without blaming one another. Many clients we see, find it difficult to list out reasons why they want to leave their spouse as they are concerned how they will react. In this society we just cannot see why a couple cannot divorce if they both decide the marriage has broken down. Hopefully soon we will see this go through parliament and reduce the levels of animosity in divorce proceedings.’
No-fault divorce was first mooted by the Family Law Act 1996, but it was repealed. However, the new legislation has been confirmed and could come into play as early as May.