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Reforms to divorce law that mean couples will not have to play the ‘blame game’ are on their way

Family Law

It’s been announced that divorce laws in England and Wales will be overhauled which will allow couples to split faster and, hopefully, with less animosity. Under the new rules, that will replace the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, couples will only have to state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, thus ending the ‘blame game’ of putting one spouse at fault. It will also stop one partner refusing a divorce if the other one wants one. This comes after it was revealed in February that changes to the divorce law could soon be introduced.

A minimum timeframe of six months from petition stage to decree absolute (the legal document that ends a marriage) will form part of the new rules. At the end of these six months, the applicant will then have to confirm their decision to seek a divorce otherwise the divorce will not be granted. A new option will be included that lets both spouses jointly apply to formally end their marriage.

Under current law, in order to apply for divorce, one partner must apply by claiming their spouse is at fault through adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour. If the fault cannot be proved or one party does not agree, applicants must have been living apart for five years before applying for divorce.

However, if both sides agree to divorce, they cannot file for divorce unless they have been separated for two or more years.

A 12-week public consultation was launched which revealed widespread support for no-fault divorce. Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has said that overhauling divorce law could help prevent conflict between parents, which in turn helps protect children from the damaging impact of ongoing conflict between their parents both during the divorce and afterwards. More amicable divorces could also aid in parents discussions in making sensible living arrangements for their children and making sure their children’s best interests are taken into account.

The new laws, which will replace the archaic system that is almost 50 years old, will be introduced as soon as possible, “when parliamentary time allows”, Mr Gauke told BBC News.

Our family law team are here to assist you with divorces, nullity proceedings, and dissolution of civil partnerships. The team pride themselves on being very active in resolving all manner of disputes involving children. Visit our family law page for more information and to read some frequently asked questions.

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