Divorce Reform

The family law world has welcomed news that the justice secretary, David Gauke is preparing a consultation on the reform of divorce law.

Currently, if couples who have not been separated for a minimum period of two years, wish to divorce, one of them must issue divorce proceedings against the other on the basis of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Details of the adultery or unreasonable behaviour have to be provided on the Divorce Petition.  This can often create hostility in a separation that was previously amicable.

In cases where the Petitioner (person initiating the proceedings) is unable to prove the adultery or unreasonable behaviour, it may mean that they are unable to obtain a divorce until they have been separated for two years, or even longer if their spouse will not consent to a divorce. This problem was brought to the fore in the recent Supreme Court case of Owens – v – Owens where Mrs Owens was denied a divorce as she was unable to prove that her husband’s behaviour was sufficiently serious to amount to unreasonable behaviour.

It is understood that the consultation will consider the introduction of no fault divorce, where neither party has to allege bad behaviour on the part of the other. We have been here before though. The Family Law Act 1996 provided for no fault divorce for couples who had attended preliminary information meetings. Unfortunately, this part of the legislation was never implemented.

Joanna Toloczko, Head of Family Law at Meaby&Co commented as follows:-

“In my view, it cannot be right in a twenty-first century secular society to prevent  two adults who no longer wish to be married to each other from divorcing, nor can it be ethical to force one of them to allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour against the other. The emphasis in family law these days is on helping couples to reach agreement and make their own decisions for the future but, if one of them is forced to make these allegations, it can often severely reduce the chances of this happening”.

For help on all family law matters, please contact Joanna at jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk or on 020 7703 5034.



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