Associate at D & G Family Law, Polly Barklem, discusses the case for reforming divorce laws
The government has been consulting on whether or not to reform divorce laws – which have not changed for 50 years – to remove the element of fault.
Currently, anyone seeking a divorce must either prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, or, alternatively, if both sides agree, they can part after two years of separation. In the absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for five years.
The most common reason for divorce in the UK is ‘unreasonable behaviour’. People who want a divorce have to list the ways in which their spouses have behaved unreasonably. Seeing a list of your perceived faults as a reason someone wants to divorce you can be extremely antagonistic, and can lead to long-term damage to relationships between divorcing couples, their children and wider family.
Furthermore, while in the past family lawyers would seek to keep examples of unreasonable behaviour vague and mild, the recent case of Owens v Owens changed this. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the examples of unreasonable behaviour provided were not unreasonable enough. Family lawyers now have to tread a fine line between ensuring examples of unreasonable behaviour will persuade a judge to grant a divorce and attempting not to upset the relationship between the couple further.
Solicitor, D & G Family Law – www.dgfamilylaw.co.uk
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