An overhaul of the divorce law which came into this force this week has been hailed by a domestic abuse survivor as ‘game-changing’ for people needing to escape violent marriages.
A new act, known as “No-Fault Divorce” means that as of April 6, 2022, couples who are married or in a civil partnership can get a divorce without having to assign blame. Until this week in England and Wales, unless someone could prove there was adultery or unreasonable behaviour, the only way to obtain a divorce without the spouse’s agreement was to live apart for five years.
Campaigners had argued the “outdated” system was in need of an overhaul for some time, with research showing 65 per cent of people who took the blame for divorce in order to legally end their marriage claimed it wasn’t their fault. They say the new law will help couples more forward without unnecessary conflict.
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Most importantly – the change in law will mean domestic abusers won’t be able to keep their spouse locked into an unhappy or violent marriage. In the past, violent partners have been able to use their ability to challenge the process to further harm their victims or trap them into a relationship.
Elaine Parker, 42, who was engaged to a man she met on Plenty of Fish before he became abusive, has welcomed the change to the “antiquated” divorce laws, saying it will allow men and women in violent marriages to leave without having to make allegations about their spouse.
Speaking to the MEN, she said: “It makes my blood run cold to think about what it would have been like for me if I was married to my abusive partner. To have to prove unreasonable behavior would be very frightening and I would have been left feeling very trapped and unable to file for divorce.”
Elaine has recently launched a new dating app, called Safer Date which claims to be the only dating website which carries out mandatory ID and background checks on members. Her own fiancé de ella was well known to the police and had a history of domestic violence, but he was able to join Plenty of Fish easily.
“It was hard enough for me to leave him when we weren’t married,” she said. “It’s really not that simple when you are in a violent relationship or marriage. The divorce law has been so antiquated for years. If you are the one that is being abused – to have to report what is being done to you can have so many negative repercussions.
“The fact that you can now leave a marriage amicably is an absolute game changer for people in an abusive relationship. Until now, abusers have used the pitfalls of divorce law to trap victims in marriage because they were able to contest the allegations.It’s finally been recognized how outdated the original law is and I’m pleased to see these changes implemented.”
Elaine is now calling on the government to assess and potentially reduce the 20-week cooling off-period which will be in place between starting proceedings and applying for a conditional order – which she says is a long period of time when you’re in an abusive marriage.
As part of the reforms, the government has also launched a new investigative approach pilot, in North Wales and Dorset, which aims to improve information sharing between partner agencies to better deal with cases involving domestic abuse. It is also reviewing the presumption of parental contact in cases where abuse is alleged to ensure children are kept safe.
Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said: “The breakdown of a marriage can be agonizing for all involved, especially children. We want to reduce the acrimony couples endure and end the anguish that children suffer.
“That’s why we are allowing couples to apply for divorce without having to prove fault, ending the blame game, where a marriage has broken down irretrievably, and enabling couples to move on with their lives without the bitter wrangling of an adversarial divorce process.”
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