The Dynamism Of The Law Regarding Divorce

Introduction

Getting a divorce is quite a cumbersome process. Endless documentations and solicitor meetings. The drawn-out process more likely than not, makes an already flammable situation worse because most divorces are not amicable splits. The Independent has an article on 9 reasons for divorce in the UK and the spectrum is broad. From interfering ex-partners to money problems and differences in sexual libido. Single Parents.org.uk also has a list and they include “excessive arguing.” The UK Government is attempting to overhaul the grounds on which divorce is legally permissible. It is safe to assume that the rates or frequency of divorce will change as well. This article will spell out the current law as well as possible future changes to the law and the unintended consequences if any. Also, read till the end for some interesting statistics on divorce!

Reading Time:  3 minutes

KEY POINTS

  • Overview
  • Current law limitations
  • The future
  • Divorce statistics

Overview

The BBC notes that there are three main reasons that can demonstrate a breakdown in marriage. They list adultery, desertion and unreasonable behaviour. In the event that both parties agree, they can end the marriage after two years of living apart. (5 if one of them is against the decision)

Current law limitations

An adultery claim for divorce will not suffice if the couple have lived together for 6 months after the infidelity was discovered. Also, adultery is defined in law as extra-marital sex between a man and a woman, it is not a valid claim for a same-sex couple. They would have to rely on another claim. The limitation of the 6-month window does not take into account human emotion. Some couples may intend to work things out even after discovering the affair but they may later find out that, it is unresolvable and this 6-month period seems to punish couples who set out to fix their problems but who failed. The adultery definition also limits the capacity of same-sex couples to use adultery as grounds for divorce. Consider if a famous same-sex couple files for divorce but cannot file based on adultery, news reports may not accurately convey the reasoning behind the divorce. (in the court of public opinion, adultery is sure to garner a stronger, responsive emotion than unreasonable behaviour for instance, which is vague at surface level observation) Consider even same-sex couples who are not public figures. Even without the press reporting on court proceedings, one may feel (rightly so) that the law has been slow to recognise their circumstances.

The future

Zahra Pabani is a divorce lawyer who is concerned about children and how they become caught up in what she terms “mudslinging” during divorce proceedings. She hails the future of divorce law. Essentially, “a couple will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and they will have to wait a minimum of six months to “reflect” before the process is completed, but the ability to contest a divorce will be abolished”

A Guardian article named several lawyers who were pleased with the government’s move to overhaul divorce proceedings and laws. “Joanna Farrands, a partner at Barlow Robbins, said the government had finally listened to practitioners and the public in pushing through changes to the ‘archaic divorce laws’” and Sarah Thompson of Slater and Gordon, opined:

“No-fault divorce, first mooted in the UK more than a decade ago, has been successfully adopted by other countries and I know many of my clients would have chosen it had it been an option at that time”

Divorce statistics

The Office for National Statistics lets us understand that there were 338 divorces of same-sex couples in 2017, (112 in 2016) and over three-quarters were female.  There were 101,669 divorces of opposite sex couples in England and Wales in 2017 (a 4.9% decrease from 2016)

A 2017 article by Unified Lawyers ranked the UK as the 7th country with the highest divorce percentage rate (42%). India ranked as the lowest (1%)

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This article is written by our Volunteer Kwaku Asihene Dapaah

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