No Fault Divorce

There has been a lot of media coverage lately relating to ‘no fault divorce’ but what does it mean? Our Family Law Solicitor Lisa Bell explains:

A no fault divorce basically allows couples to end their marriage without attributing blame to one party. In other words, it allows couples to separate without needing to prove that the breakdown of the marriage was one person’s fault.

Currently, the only ground for divorce in England and Wales is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, our UK legal system requires one person in the marriage to be blamed for the breakdown of the relationship in order to secure a divorce if the parties have not lived separate and apart for 2 years. For example, if the parties have not lived separate and apart for two years the only facts that can be relied upon at present are adultery or unreasonable behaviour i.e. that one party to the marriage has acted so unreasonably that the other cannot reasonably be expected to live with them anymore. A person is unable to cite their own behaviour as a reason for their marriage breakdown.

It has been claimed that this process can cause unnecessary stress and animosity between couples who may already be struggling to cope with the breakdown of their marriage. As a result, there have been a number of calls by high profile individuals for a no fault divorce system to be introduced.

The ministry of Justice issued a consultation on its plans to reform the law in September 2018. The consultation closed in December 2018. In April 2019 the government published its response to the consultation and confirmed that it would go ahead with the planned changes by introducing new legislation.

It is not yet known when this reform will come into play. However, it is expected that following reform a couple or one party would only need to notify the court that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. The ‘five facts’ available under the current divorce system to satisfy the court of irretrievable breakdown of marriage i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation of two years (with consent of both parties) or five years separation (without the need for consent), will be removed. Instead the government will allow couples to give notice jointly of their intention to divorce, remove the ability for one person to contest a divorce and modernise the language used in the divorce process.

Some of the process will remain the same such as there will remain a two stage process of divorce with decree nisi being granted first and decree absolute following thereafter to dissolve the marriage.

It is expected, and certainly hoped, that no fault divorce will reduce conflict between separating couples, allowing them to focus on important issues like children, property and finances.

Here at Progression Solicitors we understand how difficult relationship breakdowns can be. Contact us for an initial consultation to assess your specific needs and determine the best route for you to achieve a successful and amicable outcome for you and your family. If you would like to make an appointment with us to discuss your divorce or separation please call 01229 580 956.

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