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The breakdown of a marriage is a difficult time for families. The decision to divorce is often a very painful one. Where children are involved, the effects in particular where there is ongoing conflict, can be profound.
Under current law in England and Wales, couples must either live apart for a substantial period of time before they may divorce, or else they must make allegations about their spouse’s conduct. This is sometimes perceived as showing that the other spouse is “at fault”.
Both routes can cause further stress and upset for the divorcing couple, to the detriment of outcomes for them and any children. There have been wide calls to reform the law to address these concerns, often framed as removing the concept of “fault”.
The government therefore proposes to reform the legal requirements for divorce so that it is consistent with the approach taken in other areas of family law, and to shift the focus from blame and recrimination to support adults better to focus on making arrangements for their own futures and for their children’s. The reformed law should have 2 objectives:
- to make sure that the decision to divorce continues to be a considered one, and that spouses have an opportunity to change course
- to make sure that divorcing couples are not put through legal requirements which do not serve their or society’s interests and which can lead to conflict and accordingly poor outcomes for children
This consultation proposes adjusting what the law requires to bring a legal end to a marriage that has broken down irretrievably. This adjustment includes removing the ability to allege “fault”.