Lawyer Monthly Magazine - May 2019 Edition

Reforms In Divorce Law: Simpler, Faster, Friendlier After sustained lobbying from all sides, the government finally announced in April that divorce laws in England and Wales will be reformed and updated. The impetus for reform has gathered significant momentum over recent years. Prominent members of the judiciary, the Family Mediation Taskforce and Resolution, the national organisation of family lawyers, have all argued in favour of no-fault divorce. The government announced the changes in response to a public consultation which began last September. Justice secretary David Gauke said that as soon as parliamentary time became available, no-fault divorce would be introduced. He added: “While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.” The outdated law to which he was referring is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Currently, anyone who is seeking a divorce has to provide evidence that their partner is at fault either through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour - or if both sides agree, they can then part after two years of separation. Without consent or evidence of fault, if one spouse does not agree to the marriage being ended, the two parties must live apart for five years before they can divorce. After nearly 50 years on the statute book, the current law is unwieldy and woefully out of sync with contemporary attitudes and the reality of relationships in 21st century Britain. The key element of the changes outlined by Gauke is to remove the requirement of having to rely upon unreasonable behaviour, adultery or two years’ separation in order to demonstrate that the petitioner is automatically entitled to a divorce. So how will the new law be different in practice? Essentially, it simplifies the process and shifts the emphasis from blame to resolution. The irretrievable breakdown concept as the sole grounds for divorce will be retained, as will the two-stage process of a decree nisi followed by a decree absolute. But in future, all that will be required is for one or both parties to provide a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Designed to allow both parties to reflect on their decision, there will be a six-month minimum period between a petition being lodged and the divorce becoming final. But the new law will also prevent people from Lindsay Yateman, Solicitor at Excello Law MAY 2019 22 Special Feature www. lawyer-monthly .com

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