Heard about the 'No-Fault Divorce'? Solicitor Sophie Smith from our Family department explains all...
At present, a person who wishes to divorce their husband or wife is forced to blame the other party for the marriage breakdown on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, adultery or desertion, or else prove that they have been separated for at least two years. This is the case even if the decision to separate is mutual. If the other party contests the divorce, and ‘fault’ cannot be proved, then couples have to wait five years before a divorce is granted.
Campaigns have been underway for some time to introduce the concept of a ‘no-fault divorce’ within English law and, in turn, reduce the antagonism of placing blame, with the resulting upset and anxiety it creates at an already difficult time for couples and their children.
Following a consultation last autumn, the Government found that there is overwhelming support for a change in divorce laws – laws that have remained unchanged for almost 50 years. In February this year, the Government confirmed that it will bring in legislation in the next session of Parliament to reform divorce law, removing the need for separating couples to either allocate blame for the breakdown in their relationship or wait years to begin divorce proceedings.
It is hoped that a new notification process - to allow people to notify the Court of their intention to divorce - and removing the opportunity for the other party to contest it, will make the process less acrimonious and help families look to the future, focusing on practical decisions. The proposals will apply to both marriages and civil partnerships.
By introducing no-fault divorces into law, the UK will finally be brought in line with other countries that already have similar procedures in place (Sweden has had no-fault and mutual divorce laws since 1973). Most importantly, by making the process of obtaining a divorce far less acrimonious for many people, the emotional stress of either placing blame or having to wait a prolonged period of time before starting divorce proceedings should be reduced. Which must be a good thing for everyone involved.