Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has today announced proposals for new legislation to be introduced that will stop forcing spouses to evidence ‘unreasonable behaviour.’
This is met by strong support by those of us who work in family justice, including us at Able Mediation, as it is widely understood that this requirement to assign blame often exacerbates conflict between the divorcing couple at a time when tensions are already high. We sadly see this in mediation, where it sometimes leads to the break down of what were constructive negotiations.
This can be particularly damaging when there are children involved, as a large body of research shows that the effect of long-term parental conflict on children is damaging to children’s well-being as well as being an indicator for negative outcomes for those children later in life.
The proposed changes include:
- making ‘irretrievable breakdown’ the only ground for divorce
- introducing the requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown, instead of the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’
- continuing with a two-stage legal process, currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
- allowing joint as well as sole applications for divorce
- removing the ability to refuse/contest a divorce
- introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months from application to final divorce, to allow couples time for reflection and the opportunity to turn back.
There are still questions to be answered about how the reforms may work in practice. However, further detail will not be available until the full scheme is announced. We are told that this will be as soon as the legislative timetable allows!?
I also wonder if the reforms could go further for parents, perhaps to include something along the lines of changes implemented in Denmark on 01 April 2019, which require parents to complete an online parenting course named before they can apply for a divorce.
The testing phase of the “Cooperation after Divorce” modules in Denmark, which was based on information from 2500 volunteers over 3 years, showed “staggering” results. In 12 of 14 cases the programme was shown to have a moderate to strong effect on mental and physical health!
For more information about the proposed UK divorce reforms, click here.
For more information about the divorce reforms in Denmark, click here.