Divorce Laws: Fit For A Tudor King But Not For The 21st Century?

21 Apr 2009

500 years after Henry VIII became king, divorce laws in England and Wales still need radical reform, a group of family lawyers said today.

As England’s most notorious divorcee, Henry VIII radically altered the religious, political and social makeup of the country in order to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Half a millennium later, with divorce now a common and accepted part of modern Britain, things are a bit easier for couples wanting to divorce, but they still have to point the finger of blame, or accept the burden of blame in order to get a divorce – something that leading lawyers say is outdated and gets in the way of constructive solutions.

“Anyone not wanting to wait two years or more for a divorce has to prove ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery on the part of their husband and wife. Although for some couples this is appropriate, for many it simply adds animosity and more heartache to an already distressing process,” said Nicholas Longford, Chair of Resolution which represents over 5500 family lawyers in England and Wales.

“We want to see a radical overhaul of the current system to allow couples who have come to the end of the road with their marriage to divorce amicably and harmoniously without being forced to blame the other spouse.”

Resolution is calling for a new system whereby couples not wanting to prove adultery or unreasonable behavior can divorce on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage after six months.

Nicholas Longford concluded. “Whilst not quite like the hoops that Henry VIII had to jump through almost 500 years ago, the current system is nonetheless outdated and is convoluted for couples wanting an amicable divorce. We sincerely hope the government will act swiftly and decisively to bring divorce laws into the 21st century. ”