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Alison Fielden & Co: New Divorce Laws Proposed

New Law proposed to end the need to find fault or wait for years for a divorce

Divorcing couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage as the Justice Secretary has announced a new law to help reduce family conflict.

The move follows a public consultation where family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform. New legislation will therefore be introduced to Parliament to update our 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict.

Ministers are acting to change the law after responses also revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.

Current laws demand proof that a marriage has broken down irretrievably and forces spouses to evidence ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or years of separation, even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways.

Marriages are not saved by the ability of one spouse to ‘contest’ a divorce in court. Very few divorces are contested but this practice is known to be misused by abusers choosing to contest a divorce purely to continue their coercive and controlling behaviour. The government therefore proposes to remove it.

Proposals for changes to the law include:

  • retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce
  • replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
  • creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process

As always the devil will be in the detail, we await sight of the legislation. It is not yet known when these proposed changes in the law will take place (parliament attention is elsewhere at the moment) and therefore people should not put off taking legal advice on their situation.

Here at Alison Fielden & Co Heather Weevil and Steven Barratt have many years of experience dealing with all aspects of family breakdown. To arrange an appointment please ring 01285 653261. www.alisonfielden.co.uk.

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