12th February 2019

Divorce law – welcome to the 21st century

At long last, the government has finally announced that it intends to introduce the “no fault divorce”, bringing family law into the 21st century.

Currently, in this country, unless a couple has been living apart for a period in excess of five years (reduced to two if both parties consent), a divorce can only be obtained by one person blaming the breakdown of the marriage on the other’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Inevitably, this leads to tension and ill feeling which often could otherwise be avoided. It has also (although rarely) led to one person being forced to remain married to another. Such was the plight of Mrs Owens whose case became the driving force for change.

However, whilst this will be a very welcome change to the current divorce law, it is important to recognise that it merely scratches the surface in removing unnecessary hostility from divorce.

For most separating couples, the divorce is only the beginning of a process. The crucial discussions and negotiations concern finances and/or arrangements for the children. Thus, even if it is possible to remove hostility by obtaining a divorce without apportioning blame, discussions about finances and children can just as easily lead to conflict if not properly managed, the effect of which can be the cause of lasting damage to the relationships within the family.

Too many couples remain unaware that, rather than relying on an already burdened court system or even solicitor’s correspondence, it is possible to deal with financial and children matters by other methods: attending mediation, engaging in collaborative law or even opting for private hearings. These options are already available and family lawyers should do more to raise awareness of them and the benefits which they can provide.

So, as we welcome divorce law into the 21st century and wave goodbye to the remnants of a bygone era, if you are considering divorce, do your homework, research all the options and make an informed decision as to how best to proceed.

If you would like further legal advice on divorce we offer a free 30-minute meeting. Please contact our team secretary Khaila Reid on T: 01892 502 335 or E: kreid@bussmurton.co.uk