1969 - Divorce Reform Act 1969

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The 1969 act abolished the previous grounds for divorce and replaced them with “Irretrievable Breakdown” as the only ground, based on the principle that the fact that a marriage had irretrievably broken down should be a sufficient and exhausting ground for divorce (Cretney, 2005). This implies that the law, for the first time, covered 'non-fault' conditions for divorce (Levin, 1970). In practice this means that, under certain conditions, neither party of a marriage would have to provide evidence of misconduct by the other party in order to be granted a divorce, and that divorce may be consensual. As the previous legislation had established, the act enabled that a petition for divorce may be presented to the Court: by either one party, if the petitioner could prove that the respondent had committed adultery and that the petitioner found it intolerable to live with the respondent; if the respondent behaved in such a way that the petitioner could not reasonably expect to live with the respondent: this covers cruelty, mental insanity and, for a wife, rape, sodomy, or bestiality; if the respondent deserted the petitioner without cause or consent and with the intention of remaining apart. As for provisions relating to 'non-fault' conditions for divorce, irretrievable breakdown may be proved: if the parties lived apart for at least two years, only with the consent of the respondent to the decree, or if the parties lived apart for at least five years. This implies that the petitioner is not barred from obtaining a decree, even if he or she is mainly responsible for the separation (Levin, 1970). The act stated that “a husband and wife shall be treated as living apart unless they are living with each other in the same household”.