The end of a marriage is an extremely painful time for any couple, and I am aware of the strength of feeling on this issue. When a relationship ends, it cannot be right for the law to introduce or exacerbate conflict between divorcing couples. Currently, couples have an incentive to blame each other for the end of marriage based on ‘unreasonable behaviour’, adultery or desertion unless they can wait to divorce on the basis of separation for a minimum of two years, even if the separation is mutual. If one spouse objects to the divorce, then the other spouse must wait five years before seeking a divorce.
The Government has announced proposals which would mean that the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will remain the sole ground for divorce. At the same time the new proposals would remove the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart. A new notification process would be introduced to allow one, or possibly both parties, to notify the court of the intention to divorce. Finally, the proposals would remove the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce, which serves no practical purpose.
These reforms do not introduce a quick divorce, for around 80 per cent of couples’ divorce will actually take longer than it does at the current time. Ultimately, removing the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation would promote a less acrimonious process, helping families look to the future.