16th April 2019

Last week the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, announced a new law to help reduce family conflict and make changes to the 50 year old divorce system in the UK.

At the moment, couples that want to get a divorce have to prove that a marriage has broken down irretrievably, evidence ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or show that there have been years of separation, even where the couple has mutually decided to end the relationship.

The proposals would mean that couples would no longer need to allocate blame for the breakdown of the marriage.

The changes come after a public consultation that ran from 15 September 2018 that received feedback from family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce to voice their opinions on the government’s proposals.

The new proposals will include:

  • Making irretrievable breakdown of a marriage 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
  • Introducing the option for a couple to enter a joint application for divorce but keeping the option for one party to start the process
  • Removing the ability to contest a divorce
  • Introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from the initial petition stage to the final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute).

The announcement has been welcomed by family practitioners across the UK including Resolution, the family law body who have said this will go a long way in ensuring relationship breakdown can take place with the avoidance of ‘unnecessary conflict’.

Blog by Ifi Archibong, Family Law Paralegal