As it prepares for the annual January influx of divorce enquiries, a North Wales law firm claims that couples these days are unclear about the required legal grounds for starting a divorce petition.
Nathan Wright, a Partner in the Wrexham office of GHP Legal which has one of the area’s largest Family Law teams, says couples often struggle to accept that they must abide by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that requires them to cite one of five specific reasons for wanting to end their marriage.
“Law firms like us can see as much as a 25% rise in divorce enquiries every January,” says Nathan, “as couples make a resolution to start off the New Year with the prospect of a new life. However, whilst it is often the case that they want to separate simply because they have fallen out of love, the law does not recognise this as an acceptable reason to dissolve the marriage.
“One of the parties is therefore often forced to cite a cause that they effectively have to invent in order to raise a petition. In addition, there is no doubt that citing adultery or unreasonable behaviour can increase acrimony between the two parties and adversely affect any children of the marriage. Whilst the law may seem archaic, however, until such time as it is reformed it remains the rule book by which separating couples must abide.”
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 couples cannot petition for divorce until one year after the date of their marriage and then they must prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably due to either: (1) Adultery and intolerability; (2) Behaviour; (3) Desertion; (4) Two years’ separation and consent, or (5) Five years’ separation.
“The Act was always intended to make it difficult for couple to divorce,” says Nathan, “in the hope that they might be persuaded to try and resolve their issues and make the marriage work. But these days divorce is much more commonplace and acceptable than it was in 1973 and therefore we need to make the process as least aggressive and destructive as possible.
“Fortunately the introduction of Mediation has helped to make divorce more amicable and as a firm GHP Legal has embraced the process fully. Mediation is, however, sadly something else that is often misunderstood by couples. Many believe it is marriage counselling, when in fact it is simply a more cost effective and less aggressive way of resolving the financial and other issues associated with divorce.”
(Article published 04/01/2017)