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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
An area covered widely in the press recently is the question of an “amicable divorce.” The concept might seem peculiar in context when talking about the breakdown of a marriage, but the reality is that there are a large number of married couples who seek legal advice, wanting an “amicable divorce.”
Grounds for divorce
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act, anybody seeking a divorce in England or Wales must satisfy the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This can be evidenced using one of 5 facts; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 year separation with consent, 2 year desertion, 5 year separation without consent.
What about an “amicable divorce?”
At present, if a husband and wife separate amicably and seek a divorce, without either party having committed adultery or being separated for a number of years, they can only petition on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. This will involve citing examples of unreasonable behaviour that resulted in the breakdown of the marriage. This can often mean that blame is attributed to one party, when in reality; the couple have simply drifted apart. These petitions often turn what would have been an amicable separation, into a ‘blame game’ or a ‘mud throwing’ exercise.
Resolution released statistics earlier this week that recorded that more than 27% of couples citing unreasonable behaviour admitted their claims were not true!
Unfortunately, under the present legislation, there is no such thing as an “amicable divorce.” The Matrimonial Causes Act is now over 40 years old and there are a number of people, including Conservative MP Richard Bacon, suggesting that an amendment to the law is needed in order to bring family law in line with modern society.
So what now?
It is well documented that the law in this area is in need of reform and the good news is Mr Bacon’s Bill has passed the first reading so it may well be that a reform is on the horizon. In practical terms however, any proposed changes are unlikely to come into place for at least the next 18 months.
If you have separated from your husband or wife and want advice on how best to achieve an amicable divorce, please contact one of our family law experts on 01295 270999 (Banbury Office) 01869 252 161 (Bicester Office) 01788 579 579 (Rugby Office).