New divorce law to end the blame game

Announcement by Justice Secretary David Gauke

Man and woman sit opposite each other about to sign papers

The Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced that divorcing couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. The move follows a public consultation where family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform.

Current divorce laws demand proof that a marriage has broken down irretrievably and forces spouses to evidence 'unreasonable behaviour' or years of separation, even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways. This has been shown to exacerbate conflict, work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce. The proposals include:

  • Retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce
  • Replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a 'fact' around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • Retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
  • Creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
  • Removing the ability to contest a divorce
  • Introducing a minimum timeframe of six months, from petition stage to final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; six weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute)

The new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

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