Monday, 14 May 2018

Blame game needs to stop

A Shropshire lawyer has backed calls for changes to the divorce laws in England and Wales that date back almost 50 years.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said surveys had shown that some couples were being forced into uncomfortable courtroom battles to establish who caused the relationship breakdown.

“There is no option for couples to opt for a no-fault divorce, and this is leading to unnecessary and unsuccessful court action which can be painful for everyone involved.”

Gemma is a member of Resolution, the national family lawyers’ association, which has recognised the need for a change in the law for many years and whose members have long campaigned for the law to be updated.

“At Martin-Kaye, we always try to keep conflict to a minimum in a divorce case anyway, no matter what the circumstances are. But I would welcome a move towards divorces where neither party has to blame the other, or bring up unpleasant history in order to prove their point.

“In my experience, turning a divorce into a battleground only inflames an already difficult situation, which is of no benefit to anyone,” said Mrs Himsworth.

The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, and there are five specific types – three of which require allegations of fault: adultery, behaviour and desertion. The other two require a minimum of two years’ separation before either party can apply.

Mrs Himsworth said a supreme court hearing this month would consider the only successfully defended divorce case in recent years, where a woman claims she has been left trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage after judges refused to allow here to divorce her husband of 40 years.

“This case clearly indicates that divorce law which is now nearly 50 years old is not working in today’s modern world, and that reform has to be the way forward. But it will require Parliament to change the law and to make the legal divorce a much simpler process – it’s time to introduce a fairer, more child-centred and cost-effective system that causes less pain for everyone involved.

“It’s not right that couples should feel cornered and pressured into defending themselves in a divorce fearing they will get a worse result when it comes to their children or money. Now is the time to stop blaming each other and work together for a more peaceful resolution.”