The Federal Government is considering a radical proposal to force warring couples to wait longer for a divorce.
The Federal Government is considering a radical proposal to force warring couples to wait longer for a divorce.

‘Painful’ plan to keep divorcing couples together

Unhappy couples who split would be forced to wait two years for a divorce under a controversial plan to repair broken marriages.

Federal Parliament's family law inquiry is considering the marriage-mending proposal by the Australian Family Association (AFA), after requesting details of how it might work.

The conservative AFA has told the inquiry that some European countries require a three-year waiting period for divorce.

It says Australia's one-year wait should be doubled to two years, except in cases of domestic violence, to give couples a chance to reconcile.

Even more controversially, it wants to end no-fault divorce by giving wounded partners the right to demand damages for infidelity.

In material requested by the parliamentary inquiry, the AFA claims that "longer waiting periods are associated with lower divorce rates'' and that half of divorcing couples are from low-conflict relationships which "could survive with help''.

"Recent research shows that about 40 per cent of American couples who are already in the divorce process say that one or both of them would be interested in pursuing reconciliation,'' the AFA states.

"There is therefore good evidence to consider extending the period before parties may obtain a divorce.''

The inquiry's deputy chair, divorced One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has slammed the plan as ‘painful’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
The inquiry's deputy chair, divorced One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has slammed the plan as ‘painful’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

The AFA says divorces should be granted sooner if a husband or wife has been convicted of a violent or sexual offence, or threatened physical violence, against a spouse or children.

Australia has a no-fault system of divorce, with 12 months of separation the only prerequisite for divorce.

Nearly 50,000 divorce applications were filed in 2019/20.

But the AFA blames no-fault divorce for "massive financial and human costs''.

It wants to let spouses sue a partner for straying, by giving judges the ability to "award damages for a breach of the marriage contract''.

"The law gives a right to claim damages for breaches of contract in the civil and commercial arenas,'' the AFA says.

"Why should marriage be the only contract which may be breached with impunity?

Liberal MP Kevin Andrews chairs the joint parliamentary inquiry into family law. Picture Gary Ramage
Liberal MP Kevin Andrews chairs the joint parliamentary inquiry into family law. Picture Gary Ramage

The AFA also wants to force couples into "mandatory reconciliation counselling''.

It proposes that a partner be required to give notice in writing before walking out of a marriage.

"This could take the form of a formal notice by one party to another that their marriage faces serious difficulties and suggesting that they undertake counselling together,'' the AFA says.

"(This) may overcome the common situation that one party first knows that there are issues in the marriage when the other announces they are leaving.''

The family law inquiry is chaired by Catholic MP and father-of-five Kevin Andrews, who has been married to his wife Margaret for 41 years.

Mr Andrews, who has written a book espousing the joys of marriage, declined to comment on the AFA plan.

But the inquiry's deputy chair, divorced One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, slammed the plan as "painful''.

"If you've made up your mind you don't want to be together why drag it out for two or three years?'' she told News Corp Australia.

"You're going to cause more grief and pain.

"Sometimes it's better to finish and move on with your life.''

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said he would wait to read the final report of the inquiry into family law reform and delays, due in February.

Originally published as 'Painful' plan to keep divorcing couples together


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