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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Turing pardons and consent to end a marriage


Grounds for divorce focus on blame.

In light of the recent so called Turing pardons I wonder whether the Government will look again at another arcane element of our legal system, divorce law?

I read with delight that the Government has announced there shall be pardons, including posthumously, for conviction over consensual same-sex relationships before homosexuality was decriminalised throughout the UK, in 1982. I was quite shocked that this would be 65,000 pardons, for whom 15,000 men are still alive: how backwards did our recent society used to be? It seemed to me this was in Oscar Wilde’s time, not as recent as the 70s.

Lord Sharkey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "a pardon is probably the best way of acknowledging the real harm done by the unjust and cruel homophobic laws, which thankfully we've now repealed.” I, however, agree wholeheartedly with George Montague who was interviewed with BBC Brighton and was seeking an apology not a pardon “To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything.” After all, but for his sexual orientation who are any of us to judge whom another person loves and wants to be with provided it is consensual?  

Consent to end a marriage

That then got me thinking about consent given in relationships – given marriages can now be gay or straight without discriminated judgment – but that the lawmakers still won’t allow consent to end a marriage, unless you wait 2 years. I speak to a lot of people who call to enquire about divorce and civil-partnership dissolution and happily say ‘it’s ok, we’ve agreed, it’s irretrievable breakdown’. I have to explain that all divorces are based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage/partnership, but that you have to rely on 1 of 5 facts and the only 2 which can be used in the first 2 years are proving adultery (although this isn’t an option in gay marriages – don’t get me started on that soap box) or unreasonable behaviour, both of which focus on blame.

Two years is a long time when you just want to move on with your lives separately and sever the legal and financial ties between you. It is entirely unjust that if you’re unmarried and cohabiting you can resolve your finances and separate (and I do appreciate this is not always without its difficulties) but if you chose to marry, need to ‘blame’ the other person at a time when for the sake of the children and for an easier resolution to the issues you face in effecting your separation, it would be so much easier to remain amicable and be able to consensually agree.

I am a Resolution family law specialist and in full support of the continued lobbying of Resolution to the Government for the introduction of a no-fault divorce. I fail to see what makes the decision to change the law and include this as an option so difficult nowadays.

Kimberley Bailey
Family law solicitor, Bristol

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