Allow people to divorce without blame

How can we make divorce easier and should we?

I have advised so many people who are surprised to learn that they can’t just call it quits on their marriage without having to name and shame their spouse. It is such an outdated notion that you have to cast blame or wait two years (and even then you need your spouses consent) before you can call time on your marriage. Sometimes it just stops working and it really should not be necessary to scratch around for allegations to satisfy a divorce petition.

At the moment you can only get divorced if you can prove either that your spouse has cheated on you, behaved so unreasonably that you should not have to live with them any more, deserted you (and that is a pretty tricky one to prove) or that you have been continuously separated for two years or five years. Even then if you rely on two-year’s separation you need your spouses consent and cooperation.  If you are in a civil partnership then you cannot even rely on adultery.

This is all pretty contradictory given that as a family lawyer I am expected to keep things as amicable as possible and not to make a bad situation worse. So as family lawyers we are supposed to try and keep things friendly. It really is quite difficult to do that when you are sending someone a divorce petition which accuses them of behaving so badly they and they alone are single-handedly responsible for the breakdown of the marriage!    Irreconcilable differences (with or without consent) sounds like a good alternative to me.

It really is about time that the government brought this outdated law into the 21st-century. This was supposed to have happen sometime ago but we have had  a   succession of governments which have been too cowardly to do anything about it. They are frightened that if they make it easier for you to get divorced there will be a stampede to the divorce courts which is clearly nonsense. No one goes through the expense and trauma of getting divorced without a very good reason. Marriage is an institution which most of us support and want to experience at least once in our lives. I do not think people will get divorced simply because divorce is easier and cheaper. However if the government is worried about supporting marriage perhaps they should consider that more people might get married if weddings were not so expensive and they might stay married for longer if we had more realistic expectations of our spouses.

Although it is good for your health I do not think marriage will ever become available on the NHS.   Making it easier for people to get divorced when the marriage has come to an end  could be good for marriage.