The Ministry of Justice has today announced changes to divorce laws to "end the blame game"
Currently, couples wishing to start divorce proceedings within two years of their separation must blame each other as the divorce must be based on the adultery or behaviour of one of the parties. Under the new law, couples will be able to divorce on the basis that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they will be able to apply jointly for a divorce.
As solicitors, we see the negative impact that the current divorce law can have on couples and on their children. By forcing couples to cite blame, this can lead to unnecessary hostility and conflict. It undermines efforts to deal with the breakdown of the marriage amicably and to preserve ongoing parenting relationships.
The current law can also lead to lengthy court battles about the divorce such as the highly publicised case of Tini and Hugh Owens who battled all the way to the Supreme Court. The government plans to remove the ability to contest a divorce, meaning that spouses such as Tini Owens should not find themselves trapped in an unhappy marriage in the future.
No-fault divorce has long been supported by family law professionals. Resolution, the national association of family lawyers, has been campaigning tirelessly for this change to the law for several years. Sarah Anticoni, a partner in the firm's London office, and Felicity Chapman, a senior associate in the Guildford office, spent a day in the Houses of Parliament with other Resolution members in November 2016 speaking to MPs and Peers about the benefits that a change to the law would bring. Campaigning efforts have continued and family lawyers everywhere are today celebrating this long awaited news.
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