Justice Minister announces major reforms to divorce law
The Ministry of Justice is to introduce no-fault divorce plans in the next session of parliament.
The new legislation is the most radical reform to divorce law in 50 years, and would remove the need for proof of fault or mutual consent from divorce proceedings.
The plans include a six month "cooling off" period for couples to finalise their decision.
Current legislation stipulates that if parties mutually agree, they may divorce after two years of separation. Without mutual consent, one party must have evidence that their partner is guilty of desertion, adultery, or unreasonable behavior. Without such proof or mutual agreement, couples must live separately for five years to be eligible for divorce.
The new legislation would remove the onus on blame, and reduce the need for long periods separation.
David Gauke, the justice secretary has stated the following:
“Frankly, we are not going to keep marriages together by having a divorce process that just makes it more acrimonious [and} tries to apportion blame in such a way that the couple are likely to have a weaker, poorer relationship subsequently than they would otherwise do.”
The plans were announced after a high profile Supreme Court ruling, which unanimously rejected a woman's divorce appeal on the basis of her being unhappy.
The announcement has been welcomed by family lawyers, and a 12 week public consultation found significant support for the reforms.
The reforms have cross-party support, with the Labour party also in favor of no-fault divorce.
The proposal has been criticised by the Bishop of England and Wales, who stated that marriage would be "undermined at the outset."
The no-fault divorce law was briefly introduced in 1996, but was repealed after it was deemed as failed.
The legalization has however been recognized as successful in neighboring countries, including Scotland.