Posted: Thu 13th Jun 2019

End to divorce ‘blame game’ moves closer

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 13th, 2019

Divorcing couples will soon no longer have to make allegations about each other’s conduct, after a landmark bill was introduced by UK government today.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill aims to make divorce less acrimonious – reforming our 50-year-old divorce laws – to ensure the process better supports couples to move forward as constructively as possible.

The government says it has acted to make sure that when a relationship regrettably breaks down, the law doesn’t stir-up further antagonism but instead allows couples to look to the future and focus on key practical decisions – such as how best to cooperate in bringing up children.

Today’s news comes after Ministers pledged to bring forward new legislation following significant support for reform from across the family justice sector and from those with personal experience of divorce.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

Marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society, but when a relationship breaks down it cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other.

By removing the unnecessary mudslinging the current process can needlessly rake up, we’ll make sure the law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible.

I’m proud to introduce this important legislation which will make a genuine difference to many children and families.

Margaret Heathcote, Chair of Resolution, the family justice professionals group, said:

We’re delighted that the government is introducing legislation which will help reduce conflict between divorcing couples.

Every day, our members are helping people through separation, taking a constructive, non-confrontational approach in line with our Code of Practice. However, because of our outdated divorce laws, they’ve been working effectively with one arm tied behind their backs.

These proposals have the support of the public, politicians, and professionals. We therefore call on MPs and members of the House of Lords to pass this Bill without unnecessary delay, and end the blame game for divorcing couples as soon as possible.

Current law demands proof that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. It forces spouses to evidence this through alleged conduct such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or face at least two years of separation, even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways.

Consultation responses, which included feedback from family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce, highlighted that this requirement can set the scene for acrimony and conflict – damaging any prospect of reconciliation and harming the ongoing relationship between parents in particular.

Therefore the government’s reforms remove conflict flashpoints that exist in the current process and introduce a minimum overall timeframe, encouraging couples to approach arrangements for the future as constructively and cooperatively as possible.

Specifically, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will:

  • Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (couples can opt to make this a joint statement).
  • Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down.
  • Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order may be made, allowing greater opportunity for reflection and, where couples cannot reconcile and divorce is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future.

The Bill seeks to align the ethos underlying divorce law with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – encouraging a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible, thereby reducing conflict and its damaging effect on children in particular.

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