Divorce Reforms Have Been Somewhat Misleading

Fiona Ryans

Fiona Ryans
Solicitor
Beecham Peacock

The recent articles in the press over the divorce reforms have been somewhat misleading.

This reform is not something the government is pushing through quickly and quietly whilst we are in the middle of a pandemic.

The legislation was actually one of the many bills to fall when the election was announced last Autumn so it was progressing through parliament last year. It is nothing new.

It is also a reform divorce lawyers have been campaigning for tirelessly for many years spearheaded by Resolution, an umbrella organisation of family lawyers whose members deal with issues arising from relationship breakdown constructively and as amicably as possible.

To obtain a divorce at present it must be shown the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Then one of 5 facts need to be proved namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, desertion, or 5 years separation without consent.

All divorce lawyers have experienced the situation where a bewildered client has said ‘but we just don’t love each other anymore and don’t want to be married’.

They say they have fallen out of love, grown apart, or whatever. None of this is unreasonable behaviour. But to get divorced one party must put together a few paragraphs of ‘faults’ showing they are entitled to their divorce.  This can be difficult and unnecessarily distressing when two adults simply want to end their marriage.

As a collaborative lawyer, I often work with my collaborative colleagues sitting around the table with a couple working out a mutually beneficial outcome for them when a marriage has broken down. This is the best way to proceed if at all possible for many reasons.

To get a negotiated settlement I then have to look at how we can progress the divorce. This often sits uneasily with the accord reached, unless there is a separation of over two years and the parties agree.

Having to ‘blame’ the other party is not always what they want and the matters raised in a petition for unreasonable behaviour can cause arguments that could have been avoided.

There is also a suggestion it will be quicker to get a divorce under the new legislation. This is not true.

Divorce proceedings are started online now in most cases through the government website. If both parties agree and deal with their emails from the site swiftly a decree nisi is pronounced within about a month of applying online. The decree absolute can be obtained 6 weeks and one day later so start to finish a process of about 10 weeks.  The current reforms are suggesting at least 20 weeks so double this.

There will always be situations where one party does not want a divorce. But if one party decides it is over and applies for a divorce it seems self-evident the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Why complicate it further by listing faults or apportioning blame? Or why make parties who are amicable and want to end it wait 2 years when they agree now?

The timing of a divorce can be critical within the bigger picture arising from the end of the marriage particularly in relation to pensions so it is always vital to get advice from a specialist.

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About Fiona Ryans

Qualified in 1994 and joined Beecham Peacock in 2007, Fiona is qualified to practice Collaborative Law and has a highly successful Collaborative Law caseload.

She also has a number of high value ancillary financial relief cases. Accredited Specialist with Resolution in areas of Ancillary Financial Relief and Private Law children matters.

Fiona has good links with Independent Financial Advisors who happily and readily refer clients to Fiona and the firm. Fiona instills a sense of confidence in her clients with whom she easily secures a rapport and good working relationship.

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