UK moves to drop ‘archaic’ divorce requirements

Government plans to remove element of fault from process

UK moves to drop ‘archaic’ divorce requirements

The British government has started the ball rolling on a reform that could make the process of divorce less confrontational.

The government has launched a consultation on the legal requirements for divorce, proposing that the “blame game” between separating couples be ended to focus the process on key decisions and moving on.

“Marriage will always be one of our most important institutions, but when a relationship ends it cannot be right for the law to create or increase conflict between divorcing couples,” Justice Secretary David Gauke said. “That is why we will remove the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future.”

To get a divorce under the current law in England and Wales, couples who have mutually separated must blame each other for the breakdown of the marriage and prove “unreasonable behaviour,” desertion or adultery, or separation of at least two years. If the divorce is contested and fault cannot be proven, the couple must wait five years for a divorce to be granted.

The government is proposing that the sole ground of divorce be the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. The new notification process will allow one, or possibly both parties, to notify the court of the intention to divorce. The proposals also include removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application.

The consultation also seeks views on the minimum timeframe for the process between the interim decree of divorce (decree nisi) and the final decree of divorce (decree absolute), the Ministry of Justice said. The time between the two decrees will allow couples to reflect on the decision to divorce and to mutually agree on arrangements.

“Ministers want to reduce the antagonism of citing fault and the anxiety it creates, at an already trying time for couples and their children,” the ministry said.

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