Government pushing ahead with no-fault divorce

(Photo: Pexels/Splitshire)

The Government is moving ahead with plans to change the law to allow no-fault divorce, justice secretary David Gauke has confirmed.

Mr Gauke is to introduce legislation in the next session of Parliament that will eliminate the existing need for couples to aportion blame to their spouses as grounds for the divorce. 

At present, the law offers the alternative of both parties living separately by mutual agreement for two years.  But in some cases, the wait is longer if the couple are unable to prove that their marriage broke down because of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, or where one spouse is contesting the divorce, in which case they must live apart for five years before they can divorce.

This will all change with the legislation being brought in by the Government after submissions to its consultation on the reforms showed broad support. 

Mr Gauke told The Times that the more than 600 responses to the consultation 'were overwhelmingly in support, which is why I remain as convinced as I have been for the need to reform this particular area'.

He added, 'I hope to respond early next month and to take forward legislation in the next session of parliament.' 

The move, which represents the first major change to divorce laws in half a century, comes after Tini Owens last year lost her Supreme Court bid to divorce her husband, Hugh, on the grounds that she was unhappy in the marriage. 

They had been living apart since 2015 but her husband refused to give his consent to a divorce.  The Supreme Court ruled that she must remain married to her husband until 2020.

The Christian Institute is among those opposed to no-fault divorces.  It says that instead of making divorce easier, the Government should focus on helping couples stay together. 

'Given the devastating effects of divorce on adults, children and society, even those who do not hold to a Christian view of divorce should be opposed to measures which make divorce even easier,' it said.

'The statistics clearly show that every time the law on divorce has been liberalised, the number of divorces has increased.'

The Coalition for Marriage also questioned the plans to introduce no-fault divorce after a study by University College, London found that children who were between the ages of seven and 14 when their parents split are more likely to suffer emotional and behavioural problems than their peers who are still living with both of their parents. 

'Divorce still damages children. There are exceptions but that's normally the case,' the group said.

'Divorce for any and every reason – euphemistically known as 'no-fault' divorce – could, according to the Government's own research, cause the divorce rate to soar.

'It will inflict long-lasting pain on yet more young people and damage society as a whole.

'Why would any Government want to introduce it?'