Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, a key theme of 2020 has been diversity and inclusivity. This two-part update addresses this theme in detail
Fans of Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ will know that long-standing characters, Shula and Alistair Lloyd, are in the early throes of divorce. The hot topic for them and the family law community is ‘where does the blame really lie?’
In vivid, gut-wrenching drama, the scriptwriters have brought us to the topical issue of no-fault divorce. Shula initiated the process because she simply didn’t love him anymore. Alistair was completely oblivious to that fact and said she was unreasonable in thinking so. Cue raking over 20 years of potential unreasonable behaviour – coinciding with the announcement by the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, on 15 September this year, of the Government’s consultation and plan to ‘end the blame game’.
In the year to 2017, there were 110,000 divorces. 3 out of 5 of them cited ‘conduct’ as the reason for the breakdown of their marriage; that is, on the current law, an accusation of adultery or unreasonable behaviour on the part of their spouse. In research by YouGov in 2015, 27% of those initiating the divorce said that they had made up the allegations. This manipulation of the truth for the sake of a legal construct does nothing to preserve the remnant of a relationship, particularly if there are children involved. Not knowing just how unreasonable ‘unreasonable behaviour’ must be, encourages petitioners to throw at it the kitchen sink! This now particularly resonates following the unhappy experience of Tini Mills in the Supreme Court this year who was unable to get her divorce from husband Hugh for want of strong enough reasons.
The Government admits that conduct arguments do not serve the public interest and can be damaging for children; parties ought to be looking forward and not backwards. The proposal is to change the law and remove the fault-based reasons for divorce and replace it with a simple (potentially joint) application process. They will retain the same ground as is currently – that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
There is also a proposal to remove the possibility of defending/opposing the divorce. Many respondents choose to defend because they object to the reasons given for the marriage breakdown, but still acknowledge that there had been a breakdown. If one party believes the marriage is over, it generally is. In reality, only 2% of respondents last year actively pursued a defence; presumably, legal advice about the cost and prospect of success dissuaded the others.
Alistair and Shula have now come to their senses and agreed on a way forward. It has taken a long time, involved much middle-class harrumphing and soul-searching, but now Alistair will be the Petitioner and Shula will take it on the chin. If the Government implement the proposals for reform, they will be able to petition jointly without raising behaviour (even if it really is Alistair’s fault – his gambling and debt was the final straw!).
For more information
For more information on divorce matters, please contact Elizabeth Wyatt.
Covid-19 has resulted, on the whole, in a marked co-operation between contracting authorities and their suppliers as everybody focuses on maintaining delivery as far as possible.
Employment Tribunal rules in favour of claimants in minimum wage case – has the interpretation of “working time” changed?
As we enter a recession, we have been here before, and a key question is what did we learn and how can we benefit from that learning?
It is anticipated that as lockdown restrictions ease, and particularly with children and young adults returning to education, cases of meningitis will start to rise.
As we continue to emerge from lockdown measures and deal with local measures and the short and long term economic impact of Covid-19, local authorities will need to re-assess how services will be delivered for years to come.
The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
To receive invitations to our events, as well as information and articles on legal issues and sector developments that are of interest to you, please sign up to Newsroom.