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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
I was interested to see on the front page of The Times recently that they are calling for an end to “unjust” and “outdated” divorce laws, and have started a campaign to modernise family law.
One of the calls by The Times has been for an abolition of the need to blame the other party for the breakdown. At present this can only be done after a period of 2 years separation, and on the basis that the other spouse will consent. Given the average divorce can take between 6-12 months, this means it can take over 3 years after separation before the parties are divorced, and can have a legally binding agreement. Parties can of course divorce earlier, but often raising allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour can have a knock on impact on the often strained relationship between the parties. I therefore fully support the need for a ‘no fault’ divorce that doesn't’t require a 2 year waiting period. If you can get married because you love someone, why can you not end the marriage because you no longer love them?
The Times are also seeking backing for pre-nuptial agreements. Whilst I support greater recognition for these, there needs to be some element of check on the agreement. A divorcing couple should have their financial agreement formalised in a Consent Order, which the Court must consider before it is binding. This process involves the Court checking if the agreement is fair. The Court are not just there to rubber-stamp an agreement. There is no suggestion that such a check would be available for pre-nuptial agreements, which could leave one person financially worse off. Therefore whilst I agree there should be greater recognition for pre-nuptial agreements, I believe they should have a similar process available for the terms to be checked by the Court.
The Times are also seeking an end to so-called ‘meal ticket for life’ maintenance Orders. These are joint lives maintenance Orders, I will discuss this in my next blog.
In my opinion we do need changes to modernise Family Law, but The Times are not the first to call for these.