Divorce laws in England and Wales are set for a major shake-up under new government plans which seek to allow couples to split up more quickly and with less acrimony.

As it stands, Divorce is only granted after certain circumstances are proven.  Currently, spouses must prove that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”, and must support it by using one of five facts, including “unreasonable behaviour”, adultery, desertion, or if both spouses have lived separately for more than two years and both agree to Divorce.

If either party contests the Divorce, the couple must prove that they have lived apart for more than five years for the Divorce to be granted.

However, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court resulted in a woman being ordered to stay married to her husband of 40 years. The Court rejected her attempts to Divorce her husband based on the fact that the marriage was “loveless and has broken down”. This has prompted calls from family solicitors for Divorce laws to be reformed and brought up to date to fit modern life.

Tini Owens, in the Owens vs Owens case, had told the Supreme Court that her 40-year marriage to Hugh Owens had “broken down” and said she wanted a Divorce due to him behaving unreasonably, and therefore, she should not reasonably be expected to stay married to him. However, Mr Owens refused to agree to a divorce, and denied Mrs Owens’s allegations about his behaviour. The Supreme Court ruled against her in July, but Lord Wilson said Justices had come to the ruling “with reluctance”.

This has prompted David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, to state that the current Divorce laws, which have been in place for half a century, were “out of touch with modern life”.

“We think that the blame game that currently exists helps nobody; it creates unnecessary antagonism and anxiety at an already trying time for couples.”

The proposed changes in this consultation include:

  • Making the “irretrievable breakdown of a marriage” the sole ground for a divorce.
  • Removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application.
  • Removing the need to live apart or provide evidence of a partner’s misconduct.

The consultation closes on 10th December 2018, with David Gauke claiming there was a “strong” case for reform.

Should you be thinking about divorce and wanting initial advice, or you’re in need of legal representation, getting the right lawyer is vital. The level of legal knowledge and expertise can make a real difference to the outcome – and the standard of customer service can define your experience. QualitySolicitors Bradbury Roberts & Raby, based in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire has an expert team of divorce solicitors and lawyers to guide you through this difficult time.

Start the next chapter of your life with confidence – contact us today on 01724 854000 to see how we can help you.

Alternatively, visit The Ministry of Justice’s website to share your views on the reform of the legal requirements for divorce.