‘No fault’ divorce laws in England & Wales highlight need for IOM legal reforms

New ‘no fault’ divorces laws came into force in England and Wales on April 6th after years of campaigning by family lawyers.

It brings the law in England and Wales broadly into line with similar legislation in Scotland, and many other countries including Sweden, Australia, Germany, Canada, Spain and Malta.

The Isle of Man does not yet have similar legislation, but plans to modernise divorce laws are in the pipeline. Claire Clampton – family lawyer Isle of Man – says the reforms in England and Wales add to the weight of evidence which shows Isle of Man divorce laws are ‘old fashioned, outdated and not straightforward’.

“Dealing with a divorce is often difficult, and it can feel overwhelming and stressful for all parties involved including children,” she said. “The current system in the Isle of Man does nothing to preserve a relationship between two parties or parents, so news about legal reforms in England and Wales will hopefully add momentum to the campaign for reforms here on the Island too.”

Currently, the grounds for Isle of Man divorce are:

  1. Your spouse’s adultery
  2. Your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour
  3. Separation for a period of two years and you both consent
  4. Separation for two years with desertion
  5. Separation for five years without the consent of the other

If your situation does not apply to points one and two above you then have to remain married to your spouse for a minimum of a further two years. In some circumstances, says Claire, this can prolong the disputes and agony of ending a difficult relationship.

Amy Crellin, also a BridsonHalsall Advocate who specialises in family law, said: “The Courts in England and Wales were fully aware of the difficulties faced by divorcing couples, however it wasn’t until the well reported case of Owens v Owens in 2018 when the issue gained public attention. In this instance the Court refused the wife’s application for divorce based on the husband’s unreasonable behaviour as the grounds she detailed within her application were not sufficiently strong. This case brought issues that were well known by family practitioners to the front of the public and politician’s minds. Following the introduction of the new legislation in England and Wales, it’s now possible to apply to divorce without having to blame the other spouse. As Justice Secretary Robert Buckland noted when the Act was passed in 2020, the new laws are designed to stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another, and instead help them focus on separating amicably.”

The Isle of Man has the Private Members Bill (Divorce, Dissolution and Separation (Isle of Man) Bill 2019) promoted by Daphne Caine MHK. This looks to echo the England and Wales provisions on no fault divorce and follows a recommendation of a working committee of Isle of Man advocates. Claire Clampton commented: “Hopefully these well awaited changes will swiftly come into force, as supported by public opinion. For the time being, however, we are required to proceed with divorces based on the five grounds mentioned earlier.”  

Claire Clampton was called to the Manx Bar in 2015 and joined BridsonHalsall in May 2020.

Her specialist expertise includes all matters relating to Isle of Man divorce, contact and residence, child maintenance and domestic violence.

Amy Crellin was called to the Manx Bar in 2019 and specialises in all areas of family law, including issues arising in relation to children (e.g contact, residence, specific issue and prohibited steps orders) and in relation to divorce and/or separation, financial and cohabitation disputes. She joined BridsonHalsall earlier this year.

Contact

BridsonHalsall Advocates
Havelock Chambers
16-18 Mount Havelock
Douglas
Isle of Man
IM1 2QG
Telephone: +44 1624 614422
Email: reception@iomlaw.com