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Divorce Reforms – what you need to know

Divorce is a newsy topic at the moment.

Why?

Reforms are being made to create No Fault Divorce (trending on social media as #NoFaultDivorce).

Does fault have to be found in divorce?

Currently, to get a divorce in less than 2 years, you need to prove your partner is at fault through adultery (cheating), desertion, or unreasonable behaviour.

If both you and your ex spouse agree to divorce, then you can divorce after two years of separation.

However, if one of you doesn’t agree or there is an absence of evidence of fault, then you have to be separated for 5 years before a divorce will be granted.

What do the reforms mean?

The reforms will remove the need to blame your ex-spouse to get a divorce.

The sole grounds for a divorce will be ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of your marriage.

You would be required to make a statement that your marriage has broken down rather than have to provide evidence of behaviour or separation.

The right to contest divorce will be removed also.

Samantha Lee, head of Family Law at Swain & Co Solicitors says,

“I am pleased to see the right to contest a divorce removed. Rarely is a marriage saved through one person contesting divorce. In fact, in our work with domestic abuse victims, we often see the right to contest as a means for an abuser to continue their abuse when our client has had the courage to end the marriage.”

Will divorce be easier?

Some people are worried that the reforms will make it easier for people to end marriages.

Ending a marriage is not an easy decision.

Making the process ‘easier’ does not make the decision easier.

The reforms will see a 6-month minimum timeframe introduced, that’s from petition through to decree absolute. The timeframe from petition to decree nisi (minimum 20 weeks) will allow people the time to reflect and an opportunity to change their minds, as well as provide chance to future plan.

Will the divorce reforms reduce legal costs?

Potentially.

Removing blame is linked to reducing conflict for couples and families going through divorce.

Essentially the outdated law on divorce encourages couples to be against one another. Apportioning blame creates confrontation. Confrontation leads to heightened emotions and defensive behaviours. This pushes up costs.

Playing the blame game also sets up the scenario for punishment in other areas, such as financial settlements.

The costs are not only financial when divorce is acrimonious. The damage to mental health of you and any children involved can be huge.

Even if you do not wish to blame one another, you then have to wait to be separated for at least two years.

This has financial implications too. You may have to spend out on two households or be forced to live together until you are granted a divorce.

Are the reforms a positive move?

Samantha comments,

“We think these reforms are positive for the overall health of all involved. Reducing stress and points of conflict has to be positive. However, we need to ensure that reforms are made to cohabiting couples. Many people are choosing to never marry, but have a life, finances and children together. Cohabitees are afforded no legal protection whatsoever. Society is evolving, so law needs to as well.”


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