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MoJ to reform Divorce process

MoJ to reform Divorce process

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says it will ‘very soon’ announce reforms to the divorce process.

Research into international divorce processes has highlighted how difficult it is for people to represent themselves in divorce in England and Wales.

‘Reforming the Ground for Divorce: Experiences from Other Jurisdictions’, a report from Nuffield Foundation, says that the number of mandatory steps in the divorce process is larger in England and Wales than anywhere else.

In comparison, some other countries have ‘typically very simple’ processes.

Some only have one or two mandatory steps to get a divorce.

For example, in California they cut out the interim decree (decree nisi) in the 1980s. Many people representing themselves in divorce didn’t realise that they need to apply for a final decree to legally end their marriage.

It appears interim decrees are ‘largely unknown’ in other countries.

Samantha Lee, head of family law at Swain & Co Solicitors explains,

“In England and Wales, if you want a divorce, you have to confirm this desire many times in the divorce process. This is done in the petition for your divorce, applying for your decree nisi and again in applying for your decree absolute. It can be minefield for people representing themselves to navigate alone.”

Our approach to divorce in this country seems very different to other jurisdictions:

  • In Australia and New Zealand decrees are final after one month
  • In New Zealand orders made in undefended hearings have immediate effect
  • Finland and Sweden only have two mandatory steps compared to our three

Samantha comments,

“In England and Wales, people seeking a divorce have to continually state why they are entitled to get a divorce.”

“Like they have to prove they are able to make the decision themselves and have thoroughly thought it through. Nobody takes the decision to divorce lightly, so having to prove yourself to the Courts is incredibly stressful.”

Reducing the number of steps in divorce will reduce the burden on our family courts.

The other consideration being explored is removing the fault element to divorce, and retain the three step process.

Currently to get a divorce in the UK, you have to prove one of five things:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. 2 years separation with consent
  5. 5 years separation (no consent required)

Samantha previously commented why there needs to be urgent reform and the need for no fault divorce

With the research going on into the divorce process, it is clear that change needs to happen. Be it in the reduction of mandatory steps, removing fault, or both.

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