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Will law changes make it too easy to walk away from divorce?

Many experts and researchers, including Resolution and the Nuffield Foundation, believe that the law change will remove much of the conflict and animosity from the divorce process and help couples to move on constructively with their lives.

However, there are concerns that divorce rates will shoot up once such a change is introduced.

Among the main criticisms of the proposed changes to UK divorce law is the belief that it will become too easy for couples to separate. Conservative MP for Congleton Fiona Bruce told the House of Commons:

“I sadly believe [the new rules] will make divorce easier.

“Why do I say that? Simply because it will allow one party to walk away from the most important commitment they are likely to have made in their lifetime without giving any reason at all, and without their spouse being able to meaningfully object.”

“I am particularly concerned about the signals being sent out by this Bill to young people today.”

Religious groups and publications, including The Christian Institute, argue that the government should be supporting the institution of marriage instead of making it easier to separate. Indeed, a pro-marriage campaign called The Coalition for Marriage called the new rules a “cheater’s charter”.

Initial spike in divorce figures to be expected

As to whether or not there will be a rise in divorce rates, the BBC’s researchers looked to the example set by Scotland – which introduced no-fault divorces (after a couple have lived apart for a year) back in 2006. At present in England and Wales, couples who both agree to a divorce but don’t wish to ‘blame’ each other need to wait at least two years in order to legally separate.

The figures from this time show an initial spike in divorces in Scotland, from 10,875 in 2005 to 13,012 in 2006. Divorce rates have consistently dropped year-on-year from this point, although this does coincide with lower marriage rates.

MP David Gauke, the Justice Secretary who proposed the bill, expects a similar pattern to emerge in England and Wales once the law is changed. He said:

“There will be, for example, people who currently are waiting for two or five years for a divorce and that divorce will be brought forward.

“So, the likelihood is there will be an increase because of, if you like, that waiting list. But the international evidence suggests that once that initial spike has been dealt with – in a steady state – the divorce rate is unlikely to increase, and it is likely to remain much the same.”

To find out more about no-fault divorce or to seek expert advice ahead of filing for divorce, contact Wirral divorce solicitor Tracey Miller Family Law.