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Govt to remove ‘blame culture’ from divorce proceedings

Divorcing couples will no longer need to support their divorce petition with allegations of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, should draft legislation published yesterday be approved by Parliament.

The provision for so-called “non-fault divorces” is one of a number of amendments to current legislation the Gibraltar Government has proposed.

Additionally, the minimum period of marriage required prior to the commencement of divorce proceedings is reduced from three years to one year.

The Bill also provides for a divorce to proceed without the need for a period of separation prior to the petition for divorce, or for consent to the divorce from the other party.

Lastly, the Bill makes provision for financial relief proceedings to be brought in certain circumstances following an overseas divorce.

In a statement the Government said it is often the children in a marriage who tend to suffer from the consequences of what can at times be a highly charged and hostile process.

The Government therefore intends to promote a more sensitive post-divorce environment which, it said, will benefit both the couple and the children by ending the “often-witnessed culture of blame”.

Further, the Government also wants to tackle the significant impact that contested divorces can have on those who have suffered domestic abuse at the hands of their spouse.

The Bill keeps the ‘irretrievable breakdown of the marriage’ as the sole ground for divorce; however, the proposed law will no longer require this ground to be supported by allegations against a spouse, including, of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion.

To prepare for the eventuality that the Bill is passed by Parliament, the Ministry of Justice is working with the Chief Justice, Anthony Dudley, for the publication of amended rules for the seamless operation of these new provisions.

The Minister for Health, Care and Justice, Neil Costa said: “It brings me great satisfaction to have published this Bill. Divorces are acrimonious enough to have to bring blame into the equation.”

“This Bill seeks to bring about as harmonious a process of separation as possible. This is especially important to minimise stress and hostility, during what can be some of the most difficult periods in the lives of families and children, in particular.”

“Whilst the Government continues to support the institution of marriage, the publishing of this Bill has demonstrated its equal steadfast commitment to address the real problems divorcing families face.”