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Initial Plans for Change in Divorce Law Confirmed by Justice Secretary

 

This article is an update on one of our previous articles discussing proposed changes in Divorce Law. If you want to read this article before continuing – please visit our blog post titled – Divorce Law Overhaul Proposed

 

Back in April 2019 – we wrote an article discussing the Government’s proposed plans to make radical changes to Divorce Law in the UK. The proposed plans aim to remove the divorce ‘blame-game’ and introduce ‘no-fault’ divorces. In this article – we look at the implications of the proposed changes as well as how this may affect different people in the UK and their support/objections to the legislation.

 

Recap: What Will be Introduced With No-Fault Divorce?

Lawyer looking at documents

No-Fault divorce already exists across countries around the globe. The system in the UK as it currently stands is criticised by critics as being provocative and requiring one party to find faults in the other. There are two sides to every argument and the arguments from both sides are as follows:

 

For ‘No-Fault Divorce’ – Thinks that current divorce Law is provocative and negatively impacts children as parties feel that they need to blame the other. Leads to acrimony in some cases and bitter disputes. Critical of the conditions and time that it takes to arrange for a divorce.

 

Against ‘No-Fault Divorce’ – Supports the validity of marriage and think that ‘No-Fault Divorce’ makes it too easy for couples to separate. They argue that divorce will increase as parties will find more reasons to separate and have easier methods to arrange for a divorce.

 

Fact Check – “Is Current UK Divorce Law Provocative?”

 

The current system is said to provoke feelings of acrimony across parties and negatively impact children. Studies support that children are typically the most vulnerable people during a divorce so there is no doubt that a No-Fault system could in some cases make the divorce process easier to explain or discuss with children. However – in some situations where the estranged are looking to assign a reason for their divorce – this can produce a very acrimonious and bitter relationship. Mediation can help in certain cases but you can see the credibility in the argument that divorce in some cases can be made more provocative due to the fact that blame needs to be assigned. The divorce process is, however – difficult for those who cite for desertion. The current reasons to cite during the divorce process are as follows:

 

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 Years Separation With Consent
  • 5 Years Separation (No Consent Required)

 

5 years of separation requiring no consent is a long period for those who may want to get on with their lives but have no reason other than separation to cite under the current system. The reform to the law would, therefore – make it easier for those who have not experienced adultery – unreasonable behaviour or desertion to go through with the divorce process.

 

Fact Check Will ‘No-Fault Divorces’ Increase the Amount of Divorces?

 

On the opposite side of the coin – critics of the reforms are commenting that ‘no-fault Divorce’ makes it easier for couples to get a divorce which means that divorce will spiral in numbers. There is often the number thrown around in the US that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce and critics blame no-fault divorce as one of the reasons as to why half of marriages end in divorce in the US. No fault divorce could lead to an increase in divorce cases as more people may feel that they do not need a concrete reason for going ahead and pursuing a divorce. Some extreme critics even go so far as to say that it affects the sanctity of marriage as this makes people hold much less respect and regard for the ceremony and ‘sanctity of marriage.’ This causes points of contention between both sides of the argument which has made the proposed changes in the law a hot point of contention and debate.

 

What Will Happen if the Law Changes?

 

Should the law change – a new notification process will be introduced which will notify the court of the intent to divorce. This allows the ability for the other spouse to be able to contest the divorce when notification has been provided to court. 

 

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

 

“Marriage will always be one of our most important institutions, but when a relationship ends it cannot be right for the law to create or increase conflict between divorcing couples.

That is why we will remove the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future.”

 

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/justice-secretary-confirms-plans-to-reduce-conflict-in-divorce

 

This will apply to both marriages and civil partnerships.

 

What Other Changes Will Occur?

 

The Government is also looking at extending the minimum timeframe which will allow for parties to make further considerations of the divorce process. The current minimum timeframe is criticised due to the fact that important financial agreements need to be made as well as other arrangements such as arrangements for the children. Even after the changes – the courts will not be involved in finding financial resolutions or arrangements involving the children – they will require that arrangements are made or disputed / agreed in court should this be required. 

 

Will Mediation Still be Effective?

 

Yes, mediation will still be an effective way of reaching decisions – especially if decisions cannot be reached regarding finances, children or other agreements. Mediation is not effective or appropriate in some cases but mediation is a viable way to seek resolutions to disputes regarding finances. Should the minimum timeframe be increased then mediation may be more important and effective in certain cases as there is more time to reach agreements and go through the mediation process and use other methods to reach agreements regarding finances or children.

 

When Will the Changes be Introduced?

 

Signing divorce papers

 

With the current election campaign (as of November 2019) the changes will likely be being pushed forward with these events in mind. The Government consultation which lasted for a period of 12 weeks has agreed to push ahead and has been largely supported by a number of bodies and organisations. It will be interesting to continue to observe these developments as they progress but it is looking likely that these changes will be introduced or at least pushed forwards going into the near future as the consultation has now been completed and the recommendations to push forwards have been recommended. It is therefore very important to keep an eye on this space and wait for our next update on this controversial topic.