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Will there ever be no fault in divorce?

A recent bill could mean divorcing couples may no longer have to blame one another for the breakdown of their marriage, Lodder’s Family Law specialist, Caroline Dresden, explains.

Divorcing couples may no longer have to blame one another for the breakdown of their marriage, as a Bill to simplify divorce progressed through Parliament earlier this month. At last, the Government has put long-awaited divorce reform back on the agenda.

Current law

Under current matrimonial law, the grounds for divorce is always the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, evidenced by one of five facts. Unless parties have been living apart for at least five years, which is unusual, they must either apportion blame (adultery or unreasonable behaviour) or work together to consent to a divorce by agreement. This is not always easy at a time of high emotional anxiety. The need to work together at such a stressful time often creates more conflict; it can be difficult to agree even on simple things, such as who will be the petitioner and begin the court proceedings.

Attempts have been made to remove the need to blame and streamline the process for years.  It is self-evident that removing this aspect will make it easier to limit conflict and reduce the effect on the parties themselves and any children. In fact, a divorce process without blame was proposed as long ago as the Family Law Act 1996 but was never enacted.

No-fault divorce

The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill, which was first introduced in June 2019, came to a standstill twice; as a result of the prorogation of parliament, and then the December 2019 general election. However, now the bill which introduces no-fault divorce, has passed through two readings in the Commons and committee stage and has been introduced to the House of Lords.

If passed, the bill will replace the requirement to evidence conduct or separation, with the provision of a simple statement of irretrievable breakdown. The possibility of contesting the decision to divorce will be removed, reflecting the changing view in society about divorce, and changes to family finance legislation, such as pension sharing. The court will be able to make a conditional order after 20 weeks has passed from the start of proceedings. Parallel changes will also be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership.

One of the most stressful of life’s experiences is hopefully about to be improved.

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Get in touch...

To find out more, please contact Caroline Dresden on 0121 200 0890, or via email.