It is only a few months since Baroness Butler-Sloss introduced her private member’s call calling for a government review of the ground for divorce and the government have introduced a consultation document. Reducing Family Conflict draws heavily on the 1990 Law Commission and our more recent Finding Fault research to make the case why reform of the current mixed fault and separation regime is needed. It includes a great foreword from the Lord Chancellor David Gauke:
When I became Justice Secretary this year, I was able to take a deeper look at the issue of divorce, and particularly at the legal process that can incentivise one party to make allegations about the other’s conduct. What is clear is that this requirement serves no public interest. It needlessly rakes up the past to justify the legal ending of a relationship that is no longer a beneficial and functioning one. At worst, these allegations can pit one parent against the other. I am deeply concerned that this can be especially damaging for children.
The proposal is to replace the five facts (including adultery and behaviour) to evidence irretrievable breakdown with a statement from the parties followed by a waiting period of about six months. As irretrievable breakdown would be established by a declaration by one – or both – parties, there would be no scope for defence. It also references our No Contest report on how the process of defending can be used to perpetuate coercive control.
The consultation closes on 10th December