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Scrap the two years required for divorce by consent

Comment 7th July 2010

Section 1(2)(d) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 traps honest people in dead marriages. 

When the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed in 1973 it was hoped most divorces would happen  because "the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (hereafter in this Act referred to as “two years’ separation”) and the respondent consents to a decree being granted".  This is called a Section 1(2)(d) petition.

In practice this has not been the case.  Most divorces come about for other reasons, such as adultery.  With a very few exceptions these divorces are a lot quicker than those conducted under the two years consent procedure.  

After 37 years the time has come to amend that provision in a way that will increase one of the most basic civil rights.  Section 1(2)(d) by removing "at least" and inserting at the same place "no more than".  Consequently the petitioners could argue after a shorter period that it was time to grant their petition.  A Family Division judge could deny this if issues such as the fate of the property and children had not been properly established.  But for many childless and couples in particular it would give them the freedom to move on.


Why does this matter?


Ironically, two people who recognise that they have reached the end of the road are caught in limbo unless one of them agrees to a more or less spurious allegation of unreasonable behaviour.  Apart from simple ethics, there are many reasons for not entertaining the idea, such as the image it can leave on ones children.

The section should be changed to allow quicker no fault divorce.  This will give freedom back to honest people trapped in dead marriages, with all the misery that accompanies them.  While appreciating the Coalition believes in the family, we do not consider that allowing for easier no fault divorce of dead marriages can be seen as weakening them.  In fact, if it allows people to move on quicker, it would actually strengthen them.

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