Bishop & Sewell

On 8 September 2018 news of a government consultation paper to reform divorce law in England and Wales was leaked.

To obtain a divorce a marriage must have broken down irretrievably and one of five statutory facts has to be proved. Unless people are willing to wait until they have been separated for two years if they both consent to a divorce (or five years if they do not), a divorce petition has to be founded on adultery or behaviour. Most people do not want to wait, or cannot afford to, so they issue a petition which lays blame at the door of their spouse.

There has been a call for decades for the law to be reformed to permit a divorce straightaway if both spouses agree or to reduce the period of separation if one spouse does not. Extensive research shows that the current blame based law does not help separating families.

divorce law

Hopefully, we are now into the final stretch and the law will be reformed in the not too distant future. However, there are already some MPs who are claiming that reforming the law will make divorce easier and lead to an increase in the divorce rate even though there is nothing to support those claims. There is a risk that any change to the law could be scuppered.

Reform to the law is needed, but careful consideration needs to be given as to whether we should remove fault based divorce entirely from the statute books. Some people cannot afford to wait for a divorce if they need to get out of an abusive relationship. Other people may not be willing to wait if they discover their spouse has committed adultery.

If you need expert advice on divorce or family relationship issues more widely, please contact Philip in our Family & Divorce team. Alternatively, you can email or call 020 7631 4141.

David Little

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