Divorce reform ‘needed to protect children’s mental health’
Campaigners across a wide range of organisations say divorce law reform is needed to protect the mental health of children of parents who are separating.
A YouGov survey commissioned by the family law group Resolution shows there is a high level of concern about the issue among the public.
Eight out of 10 people agree that divorce affects children’s mental health adversely. That figure rises to nearly nine of out 10 among people whose parents divorced.
There are currently five reasons for being granted a divorce by the courts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation if both agree to the divorce, or five years separation, even if the husband or wife disagrees.
This has led to an increasing number of couples using claims of unreasonable behaviour as a way avoiding the requirement to wait two years.
The government has published a consultation paper on proposals for reform that would reduce the temptation for couples to make allegations of fault against each other as a way of securing a quick divorce.
The move has been welcomed by an alliance of groups campaigning for change including the Law Society, the charity Relate and the information service Only Mums and Dads.
In a joint letter they said: “At an emotionally traumatic time such as divorce or separation, parents want and need support in order to put the best interests of their children first.
“Apportioning blame can cause unnecessary acrimony. It is this conflict, rather than the separation itself, which can often have a significant negative impact on children.”
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, QC, said: “We have committed to scrapping this archaic rule as soon as possible, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future.
“I am pleased so many important stakeholders support our reforms, including Resolution, and we welcome all feedback on our proposals.”
The government is expected to publish the findings of the consultation early in the New Year.
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