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Justice Secretary David Gauke, MP yesterday announced what the Family Law world have been fighting for years to achieve – the real prospect of no-fault divorce.
Demonstrating irretrievable breakdown of a marriage requires at least two years of separation or one spouse to 'blame' the other for the breakdown in the marriage. This is the only route to divorce today.
For years, this has been seen by many unnecessarily to inflame a situation already fraught with emotional difficulty, often with young children at the heart of the conflict.
Recently, the case of Tini Owens, whose appeal was heard by the Supreme Court, ended with a decision by the Lords that she was not entitled to divorce because her husband did not agree. She was, and remains, trapped because her husband's behaviour is not unreasonable enough to warrant a divorce on that basis and he does not agree to getting divorced.
Mrs Owens will, under current law, have to wait until she has been separated from her husband for five years to get divorced.
Baroness Hale, the most senior judge in England & Wales has used her Tini Owens Judgment to send a very clear signal to Government that the current 'unjust' legal regime needs to be overhauled.
In addition to this has been the long fought campaign of Family Law organisation Resolution to achieve no-fault divorce. The entire Family Law team at Pinney Talfourd are active members of the organisation and believe that the prospect of this fundamental change in the law is wonderful news for fairness and progress and are very proud of the development.
Mr Gauke has announced sweeping changes to English & Welsh divorce law that will allow a no-fault divorce that will not require a period separation and will not require one spouse to blame the other. Indeed, if both spouses wish to, they will be able to apply for divorce jointly.
As a highly experienced family law team, we regularly meet clients who believe that they can commence an amicable divorce jointly. Common sense would suggest that this must be so. But they are invariably shocked to learn of the need to remain tied to each other for at least two years despite their agreement, or for one to hurt the other with painful allegations of fault. The new law will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Of course there will indeed be cases where awful behaviour is the genuine cause for the breakdown in the marriage, but there will be a choice in how the procedure is approached, giving individuals much more control over this stressful period on their lives. It will also arm us, as family lawyers, with greater options to help our clients achieve what the ultimately want – independence and fairness with as few emotional bruises as possible.