The law on divorce is changing, and this is what it means

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

The government has announced it is overhauling the law on divorce, which has previously been described as "unjust". The changes will mean it becomes easier for couples to split acrimoniously, and will also stop one partner from refusing a divorce, which can prolong the process by several years.

The current system means that one person has to accuse the other of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour for the divorce proceedings to start immediately. If neither party wants to do this, they have to wait anywhere between two and five years for the legal dissolution of their marriage to start.

As it stands at the moment, if both parties agree to the divorce, they have to have been separated for two years before proceedings can start. But shockingly, if one spouse refuses the divorce, the couple has to be separated for five years before the divorce starts going through.

The unfairness of this system was brought to light last year, when the case of Tini Owens was brought to the UK's Supreme Court. She had wanted to divorce her husband of 40 years since 2015, on the grounds that she was unhappy in the marriage, however her husband Hugh refused to agree to the split. When the case was heard in the Supreme Court, they found in favour of the divorce legislation which means the couple have to remain married until 2020.

It seems kind of bizarre that UK law could force a woman or a man to remain married to a partner they did not want to be with for up to five years - which is why the rules are finally being changed.

Photo credit: Getty Images

The new law will mean couples will only have to state that their marriage has broken down irretrievably in order to start divorce proceedings. A minimum time-frame of six months will be introduced along with the new legislation, allowing both parties of the marriage a "meaningful period of reflection" and the "opportunity to turn back" before the legal document that ends a marriage is finalised. The revised law will also mean it is no longer possible for one party to 'refuse' a divorce.

The 'no fault' system that's being introduced "represents the biggest change in divorce law in 50 years", according to BBC News.

The Ministry of Justice did not specify exactly when the new legislation will be introduced, but instead said it will come "as soon as parliamentary time allows". With Brexit taking up quite a large proportion of Parliament's schedule at the moment, however, we can probably assume the divorce overhaul won't come for some months yet.

Still, at least we know it's happening.

Follow Cat on Instagram.


('You Might Also Like',)