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50 Years on from the Divorce Reform Act – Impact & Future of Divorce

 

Holding broken wedding ring in hands

It has been 50 years since the Divorce Act was drafted. Before the Divorce Reform Act existed, divorce was a very expensive due to the fact that a divorce had to be permitted and granted via an Act of Parliament. The history of divorce legislation initially meant that divorce was restricted and that only the wealthy were able to go through the process of a divorce. After several reforms and changes such as a Court of Law handling divorce cases instead of Parliament in 1857 – divorce has changed to be more encompassing for a wider range of people. This has widened to the family law that we see today.

 

Again the law would change in 1923 which permitted both men and women to apply for a divorce if they could prove adultery had taken place. 3 additional grounds for divorce were introduced in 1937 which included incurable insanity, desertion and cruelty. The first major increases in divorce occurred after 1945 following the Second World War as the trauma and stresses of the war put serious strains on marriages upon soldiers’ returns. The introduction of the Divorce Reform Act saw a significant increase in the amount of divorces with the present statistic proposing that around 42% of marriages end in divorce.

 

This article discusses the implementation of the Divorce Reform Act as well as how after 50 years – this has shaped the divorce process and the future of the divorce process in the UK.

 

Is the Divorce Rate Increasing?

 

As discussed in our previous articles discussing divorce reform, one of the main arguments against ‘making the divorce process easier’ is that more divorces will take place as a result. With ‘no-fault’ divorces looking to be introduced – we are seeing the first major divorce reforms since 1969. Although there were in-deed increases in divorce after the introduction of the Divorce Reform Act – this could largely be due to the fact that divorce laws were outdated and made it difficult for couples to separate before the reforms took place. With the introduction of new divorce reform – the rate of divorce may increase however 2015 saw the lowest rates of divorce since the Reform Act was introduced (101,005 divorces.)  In 2017 – 101,669 divorces of opposite-sex couples which was similar to the lowest rate so the impact of the new reforms will be observed closely to see whether this increases the divorce rate.

 

Divorce is Becoming Increasingly Difficult Financially

 

Couples are divorcing later in life so although there are fewer divorces – these divorces are often more complex as there are more wealth and assets to distribute. Over a long period of time together – it can become confusing as to which assets are owned by each respective partner so this can make the divorce process more difficult in terms of reaching an amicable agreement. There are also increased pressures that are leading to an evaluation on how divorces are approached – especially in terms of the acrimony that can be caused during the current divorce process.

 

Increased Considerations are Being Made into the Welfare of Children

 

There is now a wealth of evidence that suggests that children can be highly negatively impacted by a divorce. The acrimony that can occur when parents are looking to assign blame for a divorce can also be highly detrimental, which is why further divorce reforms are being investigated and proposed. With the increased understanding of how a divorce can affect children as well as families, this has led to further support of looking to remove ‘the blame game’ from divorces by introducing a no-fault divorce system in which an estranged couple can assign no blame as the reason for a divorce.

 

Are the Impacts of Divorce Being Downplayed?

 

With the increase in the frequency of divorce and the number of divorces that are occuring, this has led some to propose that the impact of divorce is actually downplayed. Observing divorce over the last 50 years, divorce was often seen as a social stigma which was broken in the late 1970s (where divorce rates almost doubled in 1979 compared to 1971 [138,706 vs 74,437] ) 

 

The fact that divorce is more commonplace in the modern era potentially may lead to the impacts of divorce on families and children being downplayed. Divorce can be, however, an extremely difficult time for many in which major lifestyle changes may need to be experienced which can disrupt routines and everyday life.

 

The Impact of the Divorce Reform Act – 50 Years Later

 

The Divorce Reform Act arguably liberalised the divorce process – making divorce available for ordinary couples. The Act changed attitudes towards divorce as well as supported women during the divorce process and made it easier for unhappy couples to divorce. But how will this affect future opinions on divorce?

 

The Future of Divorce Law

 

Divorce Reform Law

 

As further research and insights suggest that lessening the confrontational nature of the divorce process benefits families and children after the divorce process. This is reflected in the proposals to reform divorce law and the Divorce Reform Act further. The difference and impact that we have seen to divorce since the Divorce Reform Act was introduced has been hugely significant in changing attitudes and approaches to divorce however some now think that this Reform Act needs more modernisation. Due to the fact that the Divorce Reform Act was introduced 50 years ago, this may mean that it is time for a few more aspects to be added to the divorce process to make the process less confrontational for families after a divorce has taken place. 

 

Being able to reach fair outcomes during the divorce process – divorce reform may prove to be another key influential reform that changes the way that divorce is viewed in the UK. Should these reforms be introduced – we could see another major change to the way in which divorces occur and how they are viewed by society at large. Should these reforms be introduced – it will be key to observe if there are significant changes to the divorce process and whether this will make the divorce process a more amicable process overall.

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