The proposed introduction of a no-fault divorce will mean that couples no longer have to blame one another for the breakdown of their marriage. The intended reform, announced by the Justice Secretary, represents the biggest change to divorce law for 50 years.
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According to national statistics, 42% of all marriages end in divorce. Wells Burcombe’s family law experts provide an initial free consultation on all aspects of divorce or family law, so please get in touch for advice – West Drayton, London: 01895 449288; St Albans, Hertfordshire: 01727 840900.
Grounds for divorce
Currently, to apply for a divorce you are required to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down based on one of the following reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years’ separation (with consent of the other spouse)
- Five years’ separation (if no consent)
If you wish to divorce within two years of the marriage, you have to rely on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. All of this means that, unless you are prepared to wait the requisite two or five years, you have to essentially blame one another for the breakdown of the divorce. Of course, this can increase the conflict in what is already a difficult and stressful time.
Introduction of no-fault divorce
It is hoped that the new legislation, introducing a no-fault divorce, will make the divorce process less acrimonious and put an end to the blame game.
Certainly, our family lawyers see clients who have been the victim of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. However, we also see clients who simply say they are unhappy in their marriage and/or have grown apart. They wish to end their marriage amicably and quickly. They understand that no one party is solely to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Unfortunately, whilst there may have been no unreasonable behaviour, we have to advise that if they want a quick divorce then they will have to cite some unreasonable behaviour. Undoubtedly this can increase conflict and hostility in what is a stressful time.
Blame game is damaging for all
The introduction of the no-fault divorce will mean that neither spouse is blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. It is hoped that this will have a positive impact, encourage resolution and reduce conflict in a difficult situation.
Evidence shows that when parents engage in conflicts with each other that are frequent, intense and not resolved, children are damaged as a result. If the divorce starts with blame this can set the tone of the proceedings and make it harder for the parties to work together to ensure an amicable settlement. Proceedings can become protracted and bitter, leading to upset for all parties involved.
The new divorce procedure
Under the new law, the divorcing parties will be simply be required to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. There will be also a new option for the couple to make a joint application for divorce. The option for a sole application will also be retained. The ability to contest a divorce will be removed.
It is hoped that this new legislation will encourage couples to work together amicably, reducing stress and enabling them to deal with finances and any child custody arrangements in a constructive manner.
There is also a proposed cooling-off period between the petition stage and decree absolute, of a minimum six months, to provide time for reflection, and perhaps counselling or mediation.
Although, the Ministry of Justice has said the new legislation will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”, there is no clear date yet for the introduction of the reforms.
Call Wells Burcombe for advice
Wells Burcombe’s family law experts understand the complexity and stressful nature of divorce. Our lawyers provide confidential, supportive and constructive advice. Divorce is always going to be a difficult time so we work closely with clients to help reduce conflict, foster resolution and achieve a positive outcome.
Call our family law experts in West Drayton, London on 01895 449288, or our St Albans office on 01727 840900, or email us via our contact page.