Background

No fault divorce

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Getting rid of blame when things go wrong

It has recently been announced, after a long standing campaign and public consultation, that divorce laws will be reformed. Couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage.

Current divorce laws state that to get divorced, you must prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down by basing your petition on one of five facts:

  • Adultery;
  • Unreasonable behaviour;
  • Two years separation with consent;
  • Five years separation; or
  • Desertion.

In many circumstances, due to having to sort out financial arrangements, it is not possible to wait for a period of two years separation to pass, meaning couples are forced into effectively blaming the other party for the marriage breakdown. This can lead to increased acrimony and conflict.

The reforms will retain what works well within the current process, while removing the elements that stand in the way of resolving disputes more amicably when a marriage has broken down and requires a legal ending. It is proposed that:

  • The sole ground for divorce being that a marriage has broken down will be retained;
  • The need to base the petition on a fact regarding either behaviour or separation will be removed, and instead couples will need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown;
  • The current two stage process of Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute will be retained, allowing couples time to reflect upon whether they wish the divorce to proceed;
  • It will be possible for couples to issue a joint application for divorce, as well as one party alone being able to initiate proceedings;
  • The ability to contest a divorce will be removed; and
  • A minimum time frame of 6 months will be introduced from the issue of the petition to the final stage of the divorce.

The move has been widely welcomed by professionals involved in the family law process. Resolution, the national family justice body, has been campaigning for change for over 30 years. The former chair, Nigel Shepherd said:

“Resolution members will always try to help couples deal with the consequences of relationship breakdown with as little acrimony as possible, but the current divorce law makes this so much more difficult. With this new legislation, finally our divorce laws will be brought up to date – helping divorcing couples and, most importantly, any children they may have, avoid unnecessary conflict.”

Farhana Butt and Hannah Byattare all members of Resolution, and support their ethos of resolving disputes in a conciliatory and amicable manner, recognising that acrimony within divorce proceedings can have a long term impact upon the children of the family.

If you would like further information or legal advice concerning a Family or Divorce matter please contact our Family & Divorce team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].


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