Last week it was announced that the archaic 50-year-old divorce laws are being overhauled and that “no fault” divorce is likely to become law, finally.
This welcome news has come after much campaigning from lawyers and all those involved in family law and beyond.
Presently the law says that unless you have been separated for 2 years (and the other spouse consents) you cannot divorce without blaming the other party, this is often thought to unnecessarily raise the heat in an already difficult situation for couples who are separating, especially when they are likely to have more important issues to contend with such as arrangements for their children or the settlement of their finances.
When the new law comes into force (date to be confirmed) one party or the couple together will be able to apply to dissolve their marriage based solely on the fact that it has broken down irretrievably, doing away with the need to allege any wrong-doing.
This reform has been campaigned for over many years but the landmark decision in the case of Owens v Owens really cast the issue into the public limelight.
This was a case where Mrs Owens was denied a divorce because the court reluctantly felt she did not have reasonable grounds to end her marriage despite having lived apart since 2015 (the husband would not consent to a divorce based on 2 years’ separation), therefore she must remain married until 2020 when she can apply for a divorce based on 5 years’ separation.
Bringing divorce law into the 21st century
Bringing divorce law into the 21st Century is certainly needed to reflect our changing society and the new law will go some way towards building a process that doesn’t demand acrimony.
In 2012, adultery and unreasonable behavior was cited in 72,000 divorces, some feel that a no-fault system will help ease the pressure and enable couples to end their marriage without unnecessary antagonism.
Whilst this will simplify the process in so far as dissolving the marriage is concerned, couples should always take specialist legal advice on what they may be entitled to in respect of a division of the financial assets, which regrettably is not a simple process as each case is different turning on its own facts.
The 2017 Intergenerational Commission report: The Generation of Wealth showed UK wealth totalling £11.1 trillion, with £4.5 trillion in pension assets and £3.9 trillion in property.
Worryingly an earlier Scottish Widows report showed that whilst 56% of married people would fight for a share of jointly owned property only 9% said they wanted a fair share of the partner’s pension.
In our experience this is because they don’t realise the potential value, and that they may be entitled to a share.
Taking early advice to find out where you stand so you can make an informed decision going forward is always sensible.
About Susan Harwood
Article by Susan Harwood, divorce and family lawyer with Woolley & Co, Solicitors.
Susan is a well-respected lawyer, recognised in Chambers as a Leading Individual and in Legal 500 Sue is listed as a Recommended Lawyer for Family Law in the South West.