Latest News | 12 April 2022

Divorce law shake-up could leave spouses feeling let down

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A top family lawyer at Smith Partnership has warned that a shake-up of divorce laws, which makes breaking up quicker and easier for couples, could leave some partners with a sense of injustice.

Ruth Jones, head of the family team at the law firm, said that the introduction of the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 – the so-called ‘no-fault divorce law’ – which came into effect last week, should streamline the procedure because there are less criteria to fulfil.

Under the new law, the application no longer has to include any suggestion of there being anyone at fault for the marriage being unable to continue, through reasons such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or because the couple have lived apart for at least two years.

Instead, one or both partners- for the first time joint applications are permitted – can simply make a statement saying that the relationship has broken down irretrievably, which will enable the courts to make a divorce order.

The idea behind the changes is to take out much of the acrimony that can overwhelm divorce proceedings because it removes blame and conflict in favour of co-operation and a conciliatory approach.

It will also remove the opportunity for one party to demand costs from the other and also the possibility of one spouse refusing to agree to the divorce proceedings, thus trapping the applicant in a legal limbo.

But Ruth believes that many spouses could feel let down by the no-fault nature of the new divorce procedure because they have no way of getting heard or recognised for the stress or emotional pain of being cheated on or for having to endure other forms of unreasonable marital behaviour.

She said: “It does make a number of improvements and, overall, it is a positive and welcome change.

“But I do think that for some spouses the no-fault aspect is a disappointment because they will want to feel vindicated or seek costs to make up for the years of abuse or cheating, or maybe gambling, that they have had to endure.

“Because there is no longer any fault attached to the decision to get divorced, that opportunity is now no longer open to them, and they may struggle to understand why they can no longer have their say.”

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