Divorce laws in England and Wales will be overhauled to allow couples to split faster, and hopefully with less resentment.
Justice secretary David Gauke said he had listened to calls for reform and ‘firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good’.
Presently, one spouse must allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour by the other in order for divorce proceedings to get under way.
The government proposes to remove the requirement of one spouse to ‘contest’ a divorce in court. Providing evidence of a ‘fact’ will be replaced with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
Gauke said: ‘Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances. While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.’
Mr Gauke told BBC News: “Frankly, we are not going to keep marriages together by having a divorce process that just makes it more acrimonious [and} tries to apportion blame in such a way that the couple are likely to have a weaker, poorer relationship subsequently than they would otherwise do.”
He stressed the new law will be introduced as soon as possible, “when parliamentary time allows”.
The Law Society’s president, Christina Blacklaw, told the Law Society Gazette that the government’s decision will help to eliminate some conflict from what can be a highly stressful experience.
She added ‘For separating parents, it can be much more difficult to focus on the needs of their children when they have to prove a fault-based fact against their former partner. Introducing a “no fault” divorce will change the way couples obtain a divorce – for the better,’ she added.
The new rules will include a minimum timeframe of six months from petition stage to decree absolute – the legal document that ends a marriage.
At the end of this period the applicant will be required to continue to affirm their decision to seek a divorce before it is granted.
The government says this will give a “meaningful period of reflection” and the “opportunity to turn back”.
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