Proposal Will Look At No-Fault Divorce System In England And Wales
The Lord Chancellor, David Gauke, is set to announce a consultation on reforming the divorce law system for England and Wales, potentially introducing the biggest change to family law in decades.
The high-profile case of Tini Owens saw her application for a divorce denied by the Supreme Court in August. The first judge originally rejected her case on the basis that she did not have sufficient grounds to divorce her husband.
There was a national outcry at the decision from the public and the legal sphere, and the outcome now leaves Mrs Owens trapped in her marriage for another two years until the required period (5 years) of legal separation has passed.
The week before the Owens Supreme Court judgment, Baroness Butler-Sloss introduced a private members’ bill to the House of Lords that requested a review by the Lord Chancellor of the divorce law system in England and Wales.
It is expected that the Lord Chancellor will look at introducing a no-fault based divorce system and would remove the option to contest a divorce.
Family law experts at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth welcome the move, though warn there is still some way to go with family law that extends beyond the realm of divorce such as for cohabiting couples and surrogacy.
Expert Opinion“We are delighted to see that the Minister for Justice is drawing up plans for an updated divorce system in England and Wales. We and the family law community at large have long argued the system is no longer fit for purpose – it is massively outdated, does not reflect the lives of modern families and encourages couple to blame each other at a time when families are already stretched to their very limits emotionally.
“We believe it is vital that the Minister for Justice considers a no-fault divorce system which has been adopted successfully by several other countries. The current law actively encourages hostility between the ex-partners even in the most amicable of situations, and this can stand in the way of constructive dialogue about the resolution of financial matters. When children are involved, it is particularly heart-breaking to witness. We take the view that no-fault divorce, far from undermining marriage, is essential in a civilised society.
“Another gaping hole in the framework that we hope to see addressed in the future is the lack of provision for cohabiting couples in the law. This household type is the fastest growing in the UK, and yet couples who live together for decades still have no provision in place if they decide to separate or if one passes away. Recognition of cohabiting couples in the law is desperately needed and we hope to see this at the top of the agenda following a review of the divorce system.
The Family Court is trying to keep up with the times – as demonstrated by the new online divorce system – but if the legal framework it is operating within remains primitive then there can be no meaningful change made until this is reviewed. We look forward to seeing the proposals.” Ros Bever - Partner