People are trapped in marriages because an overhaul of archaic divorce laws has been scrapped due to the suspension of Parliament, warned former Justice Secretary David Gauke.
BuzzFeed News spoke to a man in his 60s who is unable to marry the woman he loves because her estranged husband will not grant her a divorce. âWho knows how much time we have,â he said.
The Divorce Bill would have allowed no-fault divorces for the first time – which would have meant that a spouse could not refuse a divorce petition – but because he had not completed all his steps in Parliament at the time of prorogation last week, it was dropped.
Current laws mean that someone filing for divorce must provide proof that their partner has committed adultery, unreasonable behavior or desertion, which can cause further stress and upheaval for children and the family at large. .
Otherwise, they are effectively trapped in a marriage for a number of years before they can divorce: two years if both parties agree, or five years if one of the spouses disagrees.
“The point is, there are people trapped in marriages that they want to get out of – they have to wait until the separation period expires,” Gauke told BuzzFeed News.
A man, 71, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was extremely disappointed that the divorce bill now has to come back to square one, if the government chooses to bring it back. He was married for almost 50 years before losing his wife to cancer last year.
âWhile walking the dogs I ran into this lady, whom I had met on rare occasions before – she lives not too far from me – I suggested that she walk with me and since then we have become very, very good friends with the point now where we wish we could get married, âhe said.
âBut her husband just refuses to give any leeway – if he had what he wanted, it would be up to five years from the time she left him. He gave her a very difficult life, he tried to control everything she did, how she did it and it made her life impossible, so she left him.
“She really has nothing and he’s more concerned with keeping her house to himself and all the money they have and stretching it out for as long as he can before he has to give in.”
“So when we saw the no-fault divorce coming, we thought, oh it’s wonderful, because it really means that at last this horrible situation can end, you can just apply for irretrievable marriage breakdown and it should make life a lot easier for so many people.
The man said his partner did not want to go down the route of “unreasonable behavior” for the sake of his family: “You have to prove it and you start to laugh.” She is in her sixties and has been married for 45 years.
“Who knows how long we have – I’m 71 now and pretty fit, I walk a lot of dogs, but you don’t know?” ” he said. “She still has the right to divorce, but he denies her the right to have a future.”
He said it was important for both of them as Christians to get married before they lived together. Asked about his message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he said: ‘Please could you make sure this reform is included in the Queen’s Speech, it means a lot to people like us.
“I know there are many others who are very sensitive to this and are hampered by centuries-old laws.”