End of the 'Blame Game'? - UK to Introduce No Fault Divorce

The end of a marriage can be an unhappy and stressful event for all concerned. Following calls for reform, Justice Secretary David Gauke recently announced that divorce law would be updated in an effort to reduce family conflict - including the introduction of no fault divorce.

No Fault Divorce: What Does It Mean?

Under the current law, there is only one ground for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership – the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. To satisfy the Court that a marriage has irretrievably broken down, the petitioner must evidence one of the following five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for at least two years
  • Separation for two years with consent
  • Separation for five years without consent

This means that even if both parties have agreed that their marriage is over, one party must state that their spouse either committed adultery or behaved unreasonably to divorce within two years of separation. It is not surprising that the legal requirement to ‘point the finger’ to reduce protracted separation has been denounced by professionals and members of the public alike.

Divorce is difficult enough without parties having to remain married for at least two years unless one party is able to successfully blame the other. In an effort to streamline the process and allow couples to focus on finances and childcare arrangements, removing fault is just one of the proposed changes put forward by the Government.

What are the Proposed Changes?

  • Removing the requirement to evidence one of the current facts

‘Irretrievable breakdown’ will remain as the sole ground for divorce. However, individuals seeking divorce will no longer need to rely on one of the five facts. The Government proposes a statement of irretrievable breakdown as sufficient evidence to the Court.

  • Joint applications

Currently, only one party is able to start divorce proceedings. As part of the new process, parties will also have the option to make the application jointly if they choose.

  • Removing contested divorces

The Government has determined that allowing respondents to contest the divorce can aggravate ongoing conflict with little benefit. Furthermore, organisations supporting domestic abuse victims report that perpetrators exploit this. The general option to contest divorces will therefore be removed.

  • Introducing a minimum time frame

Divorce is a life-changing decision. To allow couples time to consider the implications and agree practical arrangements, there will be a minimum timeframe of six months from start to end.

  • Modernising language used within the divorce process

The current terms ‘Petitioner’, ‘Decree Nisi’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ will be replaced with ‘Applicant’, ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Final Order’.

A Fairer Process

The end of a marriage is a significant and emotional event during which tensions run high, and anyone considering or going through a divorce will agree that it could not be further from a ‘game’. The Government’s proposal to remove the necessity for blame makes the process fairer and less contentious, marking a step in the right direction.

If you’re in need of legal advice regarding divorce or any other aspect of family law, contact our expert family law solicitors via info@smithpartnership.co.uk. Alternatively, speak to a member of our team directly on 0330 123 1229.

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