Month: April 2019

What you need to know about divorce law changes

The Government has announced its intention to overhaul the UK’s divorce laws, which have been in effect for almost half a century. Here’s a Q&A on what’s proposed.

What are the main changes?

In the future, divorcing spouses will only be required to make a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is instead of the situation now where evidence has to be provided on behaviour or separation and the court rule on whether it’s satisfied the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Why are the changes being introduced?

The laws were described as archaic and outdated by campaigners. They do not believe a spouse should have to prove someone is to blame for the marriage irretrievably breaking down. The belief is that often couples simply grow apart and they should be allowed to separate through a ‘no fault’ divorce.

What are seen as the major advantages?

Reformers are most concerned with how divorce can affect children. The current system leaves parting couples to apportion blame, often resulting in increased animosity and tension. This can not only impact children but also make it harder for ex-partners to develop positive co-parenting relationships.

Will a partner still be able to defend a divorce application?

No. Ministers have decided that as it takes both spouses to save a marriage, allowing one to contest a divorce is of no use. The Ministry of Justice said the practice should be scrapped as it can be misused by abusers to continue coercive and controlling behaviour.

Will getting divorced be a quick process?

A minimum timeframe of six months from petition to a divorce being finalised will be introduced. The current two-step legal process, known as decree nisi (a court order stating when the marriage will end) and decree absolute (when the marriage legally ends), will stay in place.
However, it will take a minimum of 20 weeks to go from the petition stage to decree nisi and six weeks from there to decree absolute.
At the end of this period the applicant will have to affirm their decision to seek a divorce.

Why has the Government acted now?

It said it would review the laws following the high-profile case of Tini Owens, who the courts ruled would have to stay married until 2020 because her complaints about her husband’s conduct were found not to amount to unreasonable behaviour.
The Government carried out a 12-week consultation last year, receiving more than 3,000 pieces of evidence.

When will the changes come into effect?

Not just yet. The Government has said it will introduce a bill just as soon as the Parliamentary timetable allows. Many have interpreted this as Brexit having an adverse impact on the Government’s time for other business.

What about civil partnerships?

Parallel changes will be made to the law allowing the dissolution of a civil partnership. Currently, civil partnerships of more than one year must also be proven to have irretrievably broken down.

Read more: Not everyone agrees that all the changes are for the better.


Helping someone who doesn’t believe they’re addicted

Behavioural health advisor Jonathan Edgeley helps people beat their addictions and guides their families through the turmoil of dysfunctional relationships. Previously he spoke to Merrick Life about how he uses his personal experience of addiction to help others.

In the second part of this interview, Jonathan explains that when a family is on its way to rock bottom, an intervention may be the only solution.

“An intervention is where a family have got a situation where they are convinced their loved one’s repeating patterns of problematic behaviour are having a very negative impact on their lives and the family’s. It is becoming very disruptive – but the loved one doesn’t accept they have a problem.

“An intervention is a very loving thing to do for somebody. You will probably have heard that everyone needs to reach rock bottom before they are able to get help.  An intervention, essentially, moves the bottom up to where they are.

“We create what we call a ‘recovery team’ within the family.  They could be the partner, children and a couple of close friends, brothers, sisters, mums and dads, those people who have got a vested interest in helping this person get well.

“Generally, we get them all around the table, no less than three really, but up to seven or eight people.

“We then allay any of their fears and resentments by taking them through an educational process on the disease concept.  What we are looking to achieve is understand that this person is suffering with an illness, rather than it being a choice.

“We need to understand how they feel about this person, whether there is anger, whether there is rejection. What we are doing is, we are looking at a team, and we are looking for a captain. Somebody whose spirit is strong, doesn’t hold any kind of real anger or resentment towards the individual and is going to be able to lead that family recovery team.

Love and hope

“Essentially, we are creating a compassionate family team that are willing to meet their family member with love and hope.

“We have to explain that their loved one didn’t make a conscious decision one morning to be an addict, and to wreck their life, their career and family. It’s not a moral deficiency or a choice in that respect. They are suffering with a degenerative illness which, if it isn’t arrested, will only get progressively worse.

“By following a proven model we guide each family member to write a letter, that states they love them, they are there to help, however they are becoming increasingly concerned about their drinking or substance misuse and are willing them to get the help they so desperately need .

“The letters are written without blame or shame and are created to connect on a feelings level with empathy and love ensuring the person receiving them is left in the knowledge that help is on offer.

“The planning stage can be extremely powerful and at times bring up strong emotions. However, it’s essential on the day of the intervention the family stay calm and have practised their letters; remain focussed and are not drawn off track.

“Once they’ve written those letters, we share them with one another in the group.

The bottom line

“Then we move them to something called ‘Bottom Line’. This is something each family member is prepared to do should their loved one not accept the help. For example, ‘if you don’t accept the help offered today, then I will have no alternative but to move out of the family home and take the children’.

“That might be one.  Another one might be, if it is a child, ‘if you don’t take the help that is on offer, then I’ll be taking your car from you’.

“So, it is something that is quite significant, but it has to be something they are prepared to do. This is really, really important and is an essential part of the intervention process. The family must stick to their bottom lines otherwise it could scupper any chance of them accessing treatment in the future.

“We invite the loved one to a family meeting, on a certain date, at a certain place. This is generally a mutual venue or in their family home.

addiction intervention

The family must stick to their bottom lines


“The family are there, we have the process. We know who is saying what and when. They will bring their letters; they sit down. It is a very, very powerful and moving experience.

“I facilitate that process because generally, we can expect a degree of kickback from the loved one.

“When everyone says what they need to say, the loved one will either agree to accepting the help or not.

“If they say ‘yes’, great. The family hug their loved and explain they have been working on finding them a treatment facility that meets their love for horses, the outdoors or specialises in music therapy and other things that connect with the heart of the family member. ‘We’ve got a car outside, your bag is packed, and we are good to go’.  And that’s essentially how it works.

‘I’m not going’

“Now, if that person says ‘no, I’m not going’. We hand it back to a family member to deliver their bottom lines.

“90% of the time people will accept it then and they will go.

“In situations where they don’t, then we just have to leave it. Everybody implements their bottom lines and sticks to them. This is when the family need to pull together and support one another to stick to their bottom lines. Generally, what happens is the situation comes back around again. They get to a point where the individual goes “I can’t handle this anymore. I’ll go.”

“This might be a week or a month later. But generally, the situation is turned around, and they do accept the help at some point and go down the process.

Emotionally charged addiction intervention

“This is often an emotionally charged situation. What I’m there to do is advise the family and ensure they are looked after emotionally and therapeutically.

“I can create options in terms of the treatment facility, so that it meets their needs and their budget.

“I’m there from that initial consultation, through to intervention planning, through to intervention, through to transportation to the treatment, through to case managing the situation for their loved one while they are in treatment, feeding back to the family.

“Then on discharge creating an appropriate aftercare programme, so they reintegrate appropriately with the family and within the community and back into work.

“Essentially I’m there to offer somebody a chance of a better life. A chance of a life without mind and mood altering substances or behaviours.”


Jonathan Edgeley is the Founder of Montrose Advisory which offers independent support and guidance to families seeking a solution to a behavioural health problem. He takes a family through the complex world of addiction and mental healthcare and creates robust care pathways to meet their loved one’s specific needs, circumstances and budget.


No fault? Not always

Do this week’s widely-approved changes to divorce law risk a potential disservice to one very important section of people?

The Government has announced legislation to overhaul divorce law with the intention of reducing conflict between parties.

The move to ‘no fault’ divorce follows a public consultation in which more than 3,000 interested parties took part.

Proposals would end the need for spouses to evidence at least one of adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to divorce), or five years’ separation (if the other spouse disagrees). Instead, one or both parties would provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

While the proposals that will update 50-year-old laws have been generally welcomed, they may remove an important part of the healing process for spouses who’ve suffered through their marriages.

Family view

Merrick Life has spoken with two families who’ve recently experienced the divorce process. We heard from them that attributing blame for the marriage breakdown was actually a powerful positive.

‘Malcolm’, who has been supporting a family member through their divorce, said: “There will be many divorces where there is no blame. But when there is behaviour that has led directly to the breakdown of the marriage, then it just feels like an opportunity to voice that is being squashed.

“In so many areas of life we are being told we have to address feelings. It is part of the process of healing to get things out that have happened. The concept of ‘no fault’  flies in the face of that.

“For my family member it’s part of their recovery. It’s making them  feel better. It has made them sit down and think about everything that’s happened and realise it’s not their fault.

“The end result would be the same under a changed law but the journey may be harder. There doesn’t appear to be the opportunity to get all that stuff out and deal with it.”

Client view

A female client also told us: “I think there’s a danger that by trying to make everyone fit under this umbrella you’re saying that what some people have been through is irrelevant, and it can’t be irrelevant.

“If there has been abuse in the relationship then I think the courts should listen sympathetically to that.

“I’m sure ‘no fault’ will be fine for many couples but for me it would have been a disaster. I had to summon every ounce of courage and energy to seek a divorce. The abuse I suffered was not just verbal and physical but also financial.”

“If everything is ‘no fault’ for those like me it is not true, it’s not realistic.”

Government view

The Government admitted that for some being able to blame their partner for the breakdown was a cathartic experience.

The report says: ‘Some thought that ending the availability of conduct-based facts would remove the right of “innocent” parties to name the “guilty” party.

‘The role of the court, however, is not to adjudicate on who was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, only to satisfy itself that the legal threshold of irretrievable breakdown is established.

It later adds: ‘We appreciate that some respondents believed that parties who were “wronged”, as they saw it, should have an opportunity to set this out by using a conduct-based fact. But we also heard arguments from groups representing victims of domestic abuse that – on balance, given the limited legal effect of this and its risk of heightening conflict – this is unnecessary as part of the process of obtaining a divorce.’

Merrick view

Merrick principal Amanda Merrick welcomed several aspects of the proposed changes, including reducing time limits for a separation with or without the other party’s consent.

But she added: “There are, of course, couples for whom no-fault would be the preferred route. For some people though, such as those who have been in an abusive relationship, assigning fault or blame to the other party is empowering; very often the start of their healing process.

“Divorce reform should therefore be about creating options. It shouldn’t be about making it the same for everyone no matter what experiences have brought them to this point.

“Few, if any, undertake divorce lightly and for those who have suffered the petition is often the first step towards re-finding their voice and being heard; it is the start of a journey to move away from the past towards a better future  .”

Justice Secretary David Gauke said new legislation will be introduced to Parliament ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’.

There’s a summary of what’s proposed here and you can read the Government’s response to the consultation here.




Government announces divorce law changes

The Government has announced legislation to overhaul divorce law with the intention of reducing conflict between parties.

The move follows a public consultation which heard from more than 3,000 interested parties. This included many with direct experience of divorce who voiced their support for reform.

Current law requires spouses to evidence at least one of five ‘facts’: adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to divorce), or five years’ separation (if the other spouse disagrees).

Here’s what’s proposed:
  • The option for one spouse to contest divorce will be removed.
  • The irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will be retained as the sole ground for divorce.
  • There will no longer be requirement to provide evidence of ‘fault’ for the irretrievable breakdown.
  • There will still be a two-stage process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute.
  • The law will introduce a minimum timeframe of six months, from petition stage to final divorce.

The Government has also said it will retain the bar on divorce applications in the first year of marriage.

It will also move to modernise language used in the process. It was found terms such as petitioner, decree nisi and decree absolute can cause confusion. They will instead be aligned with the terms used in civil partnership dissolutions – applicant, conditional order and final order.

Introducing the changes, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.

“While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.

“So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”

New legislation will be introduced to Parliament ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’.

You can read the Government’s response to the consultation here.

We’ve written about ‘no fault’ divorce previously here.