Reform of the legal requirements for divorce

Closed 10 Dec 2018

Opened 15 Sep 2018

Results Updated 9 Apr 2019

This report provides a summary of the feedback received through the consultation and the government’s response.

Our focus for reform continues to be to reduce conflict, to put a greater emphasis on future relationships – particularly those involving children – and to enable reconciliation where possible. We recognise that the law cannot prevent the breakdown of marriages. Yet when divorce is inevitable, the law must neither induce nor give opportunity for acrimony and hostility. Critically, the relationship between two former spouses who have ongoing parenting roles, must not be undermined. We want to reform the law so that it creates the conditions for couples to reconcile if they can – and to move on as constructively as possible if they cannot.

We are grateful to all those who took the time to respond to the consultation as well as participate in our consultation events.

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Overview

The breakdown of a marriage is a difficult time for families. The decision to divorce is often a very painful one. Where children are involved, the effects in particular where there is ongoing conflict, can be profound.

Under current law in England and Wales, couples must either live apart for a substantial period of time before they may divorce, or else they must make allegations about their spouse’s conduct. This is sometimes perceived as showing that the other spouse is “at fault”.

Both routes can cause further stress and upset for the divorcing couple, to the detriment of outcomes for them and any children. There have been wide calls to reform the law to address these concerns, often framed as removing the concept of “fault”.

The Government therefore proposes to reform the legal requirements for divorce so that it is consistent with the approach taken in other areas of family law, and to shift the focus from blame and recrimination to support adults better to focus on making arrangements for their own futures and for their children’s. The reformed law should have two objectives: to make sure that the decision to divorce continues to be a considered one, and that spouses have an opportunity to change course; and to make sure that divorcing couples are not put through legal requirements which do not serve their or society’s interests and which can lead to conflict and accordingly poor outcomes for children.

This consultation proposes adjusting what the law requires to bring a legal end to a marriage that has broken down irretrievably. This adjustment includes removing the ability to allege “fault”. The consultation seeks views on the detail of how best to change the law to reduce family conflict and strengthen family responsibility.

Audiences

  • Voluntary organisations
  • Government departments
  • Legal professionals
  • Family lawyers

Interests

  • Family justice