The end of a marriage is an extremely painful time for any couple, and I am aware of the strength of feeling on the new laws on divorce. When a relationship ends, I do not believe it can 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. The alternative is to be obliged to wait for a minimum of two years for a divorce on the basis of separation, even if the separation is mutual. If one spouse objects to the divorce, then the other must currently wait five years before seeking a divorce. I do not believe this to be appropriate or fair.
As I am sure you are aware, the Government’s proposals would mean that the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will remain the sole ground for divorce. At the same time they 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. In fact, I understand that for around 80 per cent of couples, divorce will actually take longer than it does at the current time. A new minimum period of 20 weeks will be introduced from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made. The six-week minimum period between conditional and final orders will remain.
It is my firm belief that removing the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation would promote a less acrimonious process, which in turn will help families look to the future.