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During the evening of Friday 7th September, news broke that the government is planning on overhauling the divorce laws for the first time in nearly 50 years to allow couples to separate without alleging fault

The issue has been a political “hot potato” for decades now, and previous attempts at changing the way couples divorce have been met with resistance in parliament. However the high profile case of Owens v Owens earlier this year really did bring matters to the forefront of the public’s mind.

The association of family law practitioners, Resolution (of which I am a member) has been calling out for change for some time: the point being that divorce and relationship (with all their related issues) can be stressful enough without having to attach blame or fault to the other party.

As I have said in a previous blog, sometimes particulars of what are (conveniently but incorrectly) referred to as “unreasonable behaviour” can be deliberately exaggerated or even made up to get a divorce petition “over the line”. If the proposed changes (whatever they may be) eliminate this culture at the very least then I am all for it.

Inevitably the comment sections of newspaper websites there has been much debate about whether this could mark the end of marriage as an institution, with the divorce element becoming “on demand”. I do not think this view is correct: the process will probably take a similar timescale to go through (efficiencies of regional divorce centres being what they are). Even now the legal fees of getting divorced are probably about 10% of the total cost of the separation – rightly a lot more time has to be spent sorting out arrangements for children or the finances.

The law still does deal with divorce finance on the basis of “fairness” and “need” which makes it markedly different to a cohabiting couple who separate where such notions simply do not apply. Many family lawyers have been calling out for this to change for many years now – arguably that would be a much bigger political hot potato than the news announced on Friday.

If you are going through any relationship breakdown it is important that you obtain proper legal advice as soon as possible.

Please contact me on william.ham@greenssolicitors.org or telephone the family team on 0121 233 2042 for further information.

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