Divorce lawyers have complained that England and Wales’ new quickie divorce law is still not quick enough.
Katie O’Callaghan, a partner at London-based law firm Boodle Hatfield, called the requirement to ‘pause for reflection’ under the new no-fault divorce law an “unnecessary” delay, that is simply “stringing out” the divorce process.
Under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, couples can divorce within six months without having to give a reason. This includes a statutory 20-week period that the Ministry of Justice describes as an opportunity for couples “to reflect and turn back”.
Under previous legislation anyone wanting to divorce their spouse had to prove one of five ‘facts’: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; separation for two years (with the consent of the spouse); or separation for five years (without consent).
The new law, which makes it possible to divorce in just six months and offers no opportunity for a spouse to contest the decision, has already been labelled ‘probably the fastest divorce law in the world’.
But divorce lawyer O’Callaghan suggested that no reflection period was needed, claiming that couples have “reflected before they come to see a divorce lawyer” and the decision is already made when they submit their paperwork.
She also praised the Government’s new online divorce portal for “speeding up the start to finish time of any divorce”.
Ciarán Kelly, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, said: “The ink is barely dry on the quickie divorce law and the calls have begun to make divorce faster still.
“The reflection period for couples in difficulty is already disgracefully short. More time is needed to help couples reconcile, not less.”
When the legislation was debated in the House of Commons in June, Fiona Bruce MP warned: “Making divorce easier and quicker will inevitably change the nature of the commitment that is made when marrying, because those doing so will recognise that it is something that can be exited easily and quickly, without having to prove that the relationship has broken down.”
Former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom also said she could not see “any attempt” in the legislation to help couples in difficulty “to stay together, to help them to get through a rough period, or to encourage them to stay together to focus on the children”.