News | Legal News

21 November 2017

Judges demand overhaul of ‘corrosive’ divorce laws

Senior judicial figures are the latest to speak out in support of a movement to reform "outdated" divorce laws.

Baroness Butler-Sloss and Lord Mackay of Clashfern are the latest judiciaries supporting a campaign by The Times newspaper to revise 50-year-old laws that see couples locked into loveless marriages.

"Marriage is a two-sided arrangement and involves children as well," says Lord Mackay - who has served under two prime ministers as Lord Chancellor.

Speaking to the newspaper, he added: "Unless both parties are willing to continue, it is difficult to have anything that can properly be called marriage."

He says having to apportion blame has a "corrosive effect on relationships", adding it is "very damaging to the children".

False allegations

The call for sweeping reform follows a report by the Nuffield Foundation, that states couples in England and Wales are being forced to falsify and exaggerate allegations and behaviours.

Sir Paul, chairman of the Marriage Foundation, says current laws are no longer fit for purpose.

"How much longer does the UK want to stagger on with laws on family life that utterly fail to meet the needs of our time?" he continued.

 Evidence to support changes

Under existing legislation - the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 - a spouse who petitions for divorce in England and Wales must show the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The onus is on the petitioner to demonstrate the grounds for divorce, and these can be one of five reasons. These are: adultery, desertion, unreasonable behaviour, two years' separation with consent or five years' separation without consent.

According to The Times, 60% of marriages in England and Wales ended due to adultery or unreasonable behaviour in 2015. This compares with just 6% in Scotland, where couples are only required to wait one year with consent and two years without.

With the backing of many leading British judiciaries, The Times is calling on significant reforms to "bolster family stability, to end injustice and to remove acrimony from divorce".

Sue Andrews

Sue Andrews

Tel: 01753 279046

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