Move Could Lead To Spike In Divorce Rates, Experts Suggest
Separating from a spouse can be an incredibly difficult step to take, but the move is arguably made even harder by the tough divorce process that many couples face if they want to swiftly make their split official in the eyes of the law.
However, there is now hope that forthcoming changes will bring an end to such emotional turmoil and Irwin Mitchell’s national head of Family Law Ros Bever has outlined what it all could ultimately mean.
Not fit for purpose
At present, couples going through the divorce process have to attribute blame – either on the grounds of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour – if they want to start and end the process quickly. Alternatively, couples have to wait two years to separate amicably or five years if one of them does not agree to it.
Looking at the current situation, Ros Bever says: “This process ultimately means that couples cannot start the process of separation quickly unless they get embroiled in the ‘blame game’, which in itself then goes on to create tensions and stress at a time when emotions often already run high.
“With this in mind, it is fair to say that the current law does not allow for simply growing apart and this makes it harder for those who have done just that to get a clean break. Some of legislation in use at the moment is almost 50 years old, so it can be argued that it is just not fit for purpose anymore.”
A fresh approach
With that in mind, legal minds and various organisations have campaigned for years for changes to divorce laws and the introduction of a ‘no-fault option’.
Now, such a change looks imminent with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill being reviewed by bodies including the House of Lords delegated powers and regulatory reform committee in recent weeks.
Ros explains: “Under the new proposals, spouses will not be able to contest a divorce and there will also be a minimum six-month reflection period between the first and final stage of a divorce or dissolution. Couples would only need to state that a marriage had broken down irretrievably, while they also have the option of making a joint application.”
A major impact
This change to the law is expected to have a big impact in a number of ways, with some stating that it may even lead to an increase in divorce rates as couples who have previously chosen to avoid a legal battle opt for a ‘no-fault’ option. According to the BBC, such a rise was seen in Scotland in 2006 when a no-fault divorce option after a year of living apart was introduced. While there were 10,875 divorces in 2005, a figure of more than 13,000 was recorded a year later.
Ros adds: “The introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales would be a very welcome move and it may take unnecessary conflict out of the process for a huge number of people.
“It will also spell an end to situations like those seen in the case of Owens v Owens in 2018, when Tini Owens was unable to divorce her husband as he contested it. That kind of case is yet another sign of why a change in the law is so important.”
More to consider
However, while the introduction of no-fault divorce may be welcomed by many, Ros added that there may still be other complicated factors that couples going through the process would have to consider.
She outlined: “It should be remembered that while a divorce can seem very final, it would not resolve any financial claims that individuals may have made against each other. Such issues can rumble on for a number of years, so couples should bear that in mind even if they are seeking a swift separation.
“This is why legal advice should be considered from the outset, as experts can provide support which will ensure that such matters are handled as quickly and effectively as possible.”