No Fault Divorce Backed by MP’s
A bill introducing “no-fault” divorces in England and Wales has passed through the House of Commons with a likelihood of it becoming law as early as July.
Currently one person can start divorce proceedings immediately by alleging unreasonable behaviour, desertion or adultery against the other party. A ‘fault based’ divorce is therefore the only option if people don’t want to wait a minimum of two years before divorcing. As couples can only have finality in relation to their financial arrangements if they divorce, many do not want to wait that long before being able to move on. Equally though they don’t want to have to ‘blame’ the other party for the marriage breakdown. For this reason the current system has for many years received wide criticism.
The proposed changes will take away the blame game and mean that an individual would only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The bill also takes away the ability to contest the divorce. There will still be a possibility of challenging a divorce petition on very limited grounds such as coercion or fraud. The bill also allows couples to jointly apply for a divorce where the decision is a joint one.
The move has been termed by objectors as being a ‘quickie divorce’ however, this is not accurate in that there will still be a minimum of 6 months between petitioning for a divorce and it being made final. Some will no doubt take much longer. If it makes its way through to law though, the court will be able to make a conditional order after 20 weeks.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the bill will seek to make separation “less traumatic”. No-one sets out thinking that their marriage is going to end, no-one wants their marriage to break down, none of us are therefore indifferent when a couple’s lifelong commitment has sadly deteriorated.”
Family lawyers have promoted the concept of a no-fault divorce for many years and have largely welcomed the proposed changes.
Pictons Head of Family law Amy Chesterfield said:
“I welcome the progress made by this bill. The current system is needlessly antagonistic with a requirement to allocate fault to one party or another when in practice a marriage may simply have broken down with no fault. The removal of the 5 year period is also a very sensible move. Locking a person in a marriage they have emotionally left is damaging on many grounds. The changes may also reduce the costs and unnecessary acrimony associated with divorce.”
It is also expected that similar changes will be made to the law as applied to civil partnerships.
If you need advice on divorce or any other family matter please contact Amy Chesterfield:
T: 0800 302 9448