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At the start of 2020, there’s some positive news for those who passionately believe the law should change. The Government has revealed that it is still committed to reforming divorce legislation. Some campaigners were disappointed that it wasn’t included as a priority in the Queen’s Speech, but it was nonetheless mentioned in supporting papers.
The Government has reaffirmed its pledge to reduce unnecessary conflict in families, not only with this change to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973 but with a new Reducing Parental Conflict programme.
What is ‘no fault’ divorce and why is a change to the law needed?
You may have heard about the concept of ‘no fault’ divorce throughout 2019, as many key people and organisations in the legal profession are in support of it. These include The Law Society, Relate and the most senior family law judge in England, Sir James Munby. But what actually is it, and how would it affect divorce for people in England and Wales?
No fault divorce would remove the requirement for one party to prove that the relationship has broken down because of one of five key grounds. Three of these effectively accuse one spouse of ‘fault’ – adultery, desertion and unreasonable behaviour. The other two permit divorce if the couple have been separated for two or five years, depending on whether both parties agree to the separation.
The new divorce bill aims to eliminate this requirement, instead allowing couples to divorce with ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the relationship as the one and only reason.
The hope is that this change will reduce the animosity, stress and upset that making an accusation against a former partner can cause. Couples who have simply drifted apart can divorce without having to ‘make up’ a reason for divorce or live apart for a number of years. It is also hoped that it will reduce the toll that divorce can take on families, where it can drive couples who need to co-parent further apart.
Is everyone in favour of divorce law reform?
While many in the legal profession and in government believe that reform is long overdue, not everyone agrees. Some, including Christian organisations and some MPs, believe that no fault divorce will make it too easy for couples to separate. Explaining how the divorce bill could put a stop to any efforts of reconciliation, Conservative MP and solicitor Fiona Bruce has said:
“When couples do stay together and weather the inevitable storms of marriage, the stability that that engenders benefits not just the parties, but their children”.
The government has also revealed plans for a £39 million programme entitled Reducing Parental Conflict, which aims to reduce the levels of harmful conflict between separating parents.
If you’re facing divorce, you don’t have to do it alone. Get in touch with Liverpool solicitor Tracey Miller – we’ll do all we can to minimise stress and conflict during the process, while also fighting your corner.