Is a divorce law reform on the horizon?

Britain’s top family law judge recently declared a large number of divorce cases void after widespread fraudulent activity was found.

Here, Karen Reid from WHN’s family law team, explains how the ruling could prompt changes to the way future divorces are handled by the courts.

180 Italian couples made use of an anonymous mailbox address to lodge bogus divorce petitions at 137 UK county courts.

The discovery came when a Burnley County Court staff member queried why an Italian couple living in Maidenhead, Berkshire had applied for a divorce over 200 miles away in Burnley.

The finding sparked Sir James Munby, president of the family division at the High Court, to call for the divorce process to be streamlined to make it harder for fraudulent divorcees to fool the system.

Sir Munby advised that introducing tighter restrictions, such as centralising the handling of divorce petitions to fewer than 20 courts across England and Wales, will help combat fraud by making unlawful claims easier to spot.

But the ruling has also sparked debate about whether the UK divorce system is out of date.

Italian law requires divorcing couples to live separately for three years before they can petition a court for a divorce, however in England and Wales, a couple who have been married for at least a year can apply for a divorce on the grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour without a wait.

While under current rules couples need to have been married for at least two years to issue a no-fault divorce petition, if new proposals come into force this could be reduced, making it easier for spouses to put their financial and child-related affairs in order.

To find out more about petitioning for divorce, contact family law specialist Karen Reid on 01254 272640 or