If you are contemplating a divorce, then keep reading to find out all you need to know about the changes which will soon be happening.
Currently the position is that there is only one ground for divorce, that is that you have reached the conclusion that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. In other words, you think that your marriage is at an end and there is no possibility of a reconciliation. In order to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, you will need to set out one of five reasons. In no particular order, these are:
2 Unreasonable behaviour;
3 Two years separation and both parties agree to a divorce;
4 Two years desertion;
5 Five years separation.
In our experience, given a choice, most people would prefer to deal with things without pointing the finger of blame. This currently means relying upon two or five years separation. However, for a variety of reasons including dealing with the children or finances, it is either impractical or undesirable to wait for two or five years to begin a divorce. In practice this means that many people find that they are left with no alternative but to use the unreasonable behaviour reason to begin a divorce. However, this involves pointing the finger of blame and setting out several examples of behaviour of the other person which led you to the conclusion that your marriage came to an end. It can be unpleasant and lead to confrontation and resentment, all of which most people naturally wish to avoid if possible.
There has been a long-running campaign to try and reform the current law which many think is outdated and causes unnecessary resentment and confrontation. The Government has finally acted on this and has put forward legislation to change the procedure on divorce. At the time of writing, this legislation is currently in the House of Lords having had two readings in the Houses of Parliament.
The legislation, if passed, will result in a complete change in the divorce process. In principle, although the grounds for divorce will remain the same, ie the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, it will no longer be necessary to set out any of the five reasons to show that the marriage has broken down. This is designed to avoid unnecessary confrontation and is a welcome change.
Although there may be changes to the final legislation, our understanding is that if someone decides they wish to start a divorce, they will simply need to make a formal declaration and that they have come to the conclusion their marriage has irretrievably broken down. There will then be a period of reflection when it is hoped that the issues around finances and children can be dealt with. After a period of reflection, which we understand will be six months, you will simply confirm that your marriage remains irretrievably broken down and the Court will progress the divorce.
Our experience is that most people want to avoid unnecessary confrontation or cause resentment, but the current system does not allow them to avoid this in many cases. This can have a knock-on effect when it comes to resolving important issues around arrangements for the children and financial settlement at the end of the relationship. It can therefore be a barrier to people reaching a decision to bring their marriage to an end because they cannot face the prospect of a battle. The new legislation will enable people to begin the divorce without having to place blame or cause unnecessary conflict.
If you are contemplating a divorce, or would like further advice and information, please do not hesitate to contact one of our solicitors.