No Fault Divorce – Will this happen in 2020? Family Law

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill proposing that the current law should be changed, to allow for a provision for no fault divorce, has now passed it’s second reading in the House of Commons.  As the bill is now in its last stages, with amendments to be discussed between the House of Lords and House of Commons before receiving Royal Assent, it is thought that the new law may be passed this year.

Current divorce law is over 50 years old and if parties wish to divorce in England and Wales, in order to have grounds to do so, the marriage needs to have irretrievably broken down and this is evidenced by one of five facts –

1.         The Respondent has committed Adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent

2.         The Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent.

3.         The Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately before the start of the Divorce.

4.         The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately before the start of the Divorce and the Respondent consents to a Decree being granted.

5.         The Parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately before the start of the Divorce.

Therefore, if parties have simply come to the conclusion that the marriage/civil partnership is no longer working, there is currently a requirement they have to wait at least 2 years before a Petition can be issued to commence Divorce/Dissolution Proceedings or consider whether one party has grounds to issue on the fact of either “adultery” or “unreasonable behaviour” requiring one party to make allegations against the other as to why they caused the marriage to irretrievably break down.  If parties decide therefore that they do not wish to wait for 2 years before Proceedings are commenced, they are left in a position of one party having to blame the other party, increasing the conflict and animosity between them.

If the Bill is passed, this will change the current law to make provision for each party to separately make a declaration to the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, without the need to satisfy any of the other facts set out above.   However, there will be a minimum time frame of 6 months between making the Statement to Court and finalising the Divorce, to allow parties time to reflect and change their mind if they wish to do so.  This will remove the need to apportion blame, reducing unnecessary conflict at an already difficult time.  It will also allow families to focus on resolving finances and arrangement for any children in an amicable way.

The bill has been backed by the majority of MPs and by Resolution (an association of family law professionals committed to resolving family issues in a constructive way).  Margaret Heathcote, the Chair of Resolution, commented that:

“Today’s vote was a victory for common sense and compassion. Resolution members abide by a Code of Practice that aims to reduce conflict and confrontation within the divorce process while considering the needs of the whole family. The current rules of fault-based divorce actively harms the ability of our members to resolve disputes constructively by cementing in conflict from the very start of the process.

“MPs should be proud of themselves for putting families first. No-fault divorce will ensure more families are able to come to long lasting, amicable and constructive agreements which benefit everyone involved, particularly children. It is a shame that a small number of MPs voted against the Bill; but we hope that they will see the benefits of this legislation as it helps separating couples minimise conflict which will, in turn, improve outcomes for children.

“For more than 30 years, Resolution has campaigned for no-fault divorce, a reform that will make divorce not easier, but kinder. This victory would not have been possible without the dedication, support and passion that our members have for helping families resolves conflict constructively. Today’s victory was won by our members, for the couples they support, and will benefit thousands of separating families each year in England and Wales.”

Our family law team have a wealth of knowledge and skill in all aspects of separation, divorce and resolving the financial and children issues which flow from this.  Our team is here to offer a sympathetic, supportive and approachable person at the end of the phone to offer advise.  We are still very much operating and here to meet your needs.  We are able to facilitate Facetime and other telephone conferencing systems should you wish to do so.

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