Grounds for Divorce - Time for a change!

In the U.S. State of Maryland, the court may currently grant an absolute divorce on the ground of adultery, desertion, insanity, cruelty of treatment, excessively vicious conduct, 2 year separation and voluntary separation for one year. Now Montgomery County Delegate Luiz Simmons wants to add to this list, couples who go a year without having sex. The argument being that forcing couples to live apart for a period places a challenging financial burden upon them “especially if both parties must live in places large enough to accommodate children”

If enacted, the change in the law would enable couples to remain under the same roof during the one year wait for a divorce provided throughout they abstained from sex with each other.

The argument that divorcing couples should not have to live apart beyond any short “cooling off” period before being granted a divorce is not restricted to those across the pond. Last week the Office of National Statistics published the latest figures (2008) on divorce rates in England & Wales. Amongst the findings was that behaviour yet again was relied on the most to prove that a marriage had broken down irretrievably (the single ground for a divorce in England & Wales).

With adultery being the next common factor relied on, the majority of those wanting a divorce decided in 2008 to place the blame for the breakup of their marriage on their spouse. This they did by filing a petition or application for divorce based on allegations of unreasonable behaviour or adultery to prove the irretrievable break down of the marriage rather than wait at least two years to secure a divorce.

Not a new revelation but one that has again encouraged family law practitioners to call for reform to the current divorce law. Resolution is backing a system that would enable couples to divorce within a matter of months, without the need to attribute blame.

It has been argued that a two year cooling off period (in the absence of fault) protects the institution of marriage from quickie divorces or the easy divorce from couples who have merely drifted apart. But as divorcees will know, there is nothing easy about divorce. It is hard work and frequently an extremely demanding and painful experience riddled with complications way beyond the reason for the marriage break down.

As I work with separating and divorcing clients who frequently just want to maintain their self respect and dignity, secure a fair financial settlement, do what is best for their children in the circumstances, amicably resolve differences with their partner and move on with their lives, a divorce process that is fault based can be unnecessarily confrontational and out of step with the direction clients are moving towards. The time for a change has come.