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17 April 2019
We welcome the recent announcement that the government plans to shake-up the laws around divorce. In essence; the proposed changes are intended to make the process of divorce easier, and in turn lessen the burden on both partners and any children caught in the middle.
If you’re not familiar with the proposed new law (or indeed the current one), here’s a brief summary:
If both parties agree, the divorce can go ahead after 2 years of separation.
However, if one spouse objects to the divorce, the partner seeking the divorce must be able to demonstrate Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour, Desertion or must live separately from the other party for 5 years.
The new law should simplify matters considerably, as no such evidence must be submitted, and also the rights of either spouse to contest the divorce have been removed. The only requirement is for either partner to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Instead, a mandatory 6-month timeframe will be enforced from petition stage to final divorce to allow for reflection and possible mediation.
In announcing these proposed changes, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances. While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples. I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”
The Ministry of Justice has said new legislation would be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”
We certainly see and experience the damage that acrimonious divorce can inflict upon children. When divorces get nasty, the implications for children’s life chances and future relationships can be severe. What’s more, these effects can echo through generations as negative experiences in childhood can permanently scar a child’s perception of relationships and family life.
We think this point should be emphasised strongly, as it has implications far beyond divorce law. For sure, the current divorce law can exacerbate a bad separation, but we would argue that quite apart from this, the impact on any children present during this time should be the primary consideration. Regardless of the terms of a divorce, what’s paramount is that both parents are seen to treat each other with respect and dignity throughout the process, and not play the ‘blame game’ in front of the children.
It’s perfectly possible for a child to enjoy positive relationships with both parents regardless of the nature of the divorce. Equally, it’s quite possible that the child’s future could be irrevocably damaged by what they are exposed to at this time. It’s partly for his reason that we encourage communication rather than confrontation when resolving any issues around divorce.
If you’d like to speak to someone about a divorce or family / children law matters, get in touch with us for a free no obligations chat.