Divorce rates in the UK have officially hit a record low. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were a total of 90,871 divorces between heterosexual couples in 2018. That reflects a drop of 10.6% in comparison to 2017 and the lowest recorded number since 1971. The reasoning behind this has been widely considered and debated over the last couple of years. One reason that has been explored is whether people are waiting for the much anticipated no fault divorce bill to pass.
The long-awaited promise from the Government that the no fault divorce bill would come into force may have affected peoples’ decision to file, or not to file, for divorce. Now the ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill’ promises to reform the divorce process to remove the concept of fault. It was felt by many that the current law on divorce is outdated and, therefore, reform is necessary to move with the times.
The new bill will aim to replace the current five reasons for divorce, where an individual currently applying for a divorce must choose one. The new requirement is expected to be to simply show that an irretrievable breakdown has occurred.
Why Wait for No Fault Divorce Bill If You Are in an Unhappy Marriage?
The answer, it would seem, surrounds the use of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as a reason for divorce. Unreasonable behaviour was cited as the most commonly used of the five reasons last year. This is likely to be because it is essentially the most viable option to ‘fast track’ a divorce, without having to wait 2 years with your spouse’s consent or 5 years without it. This process may have ‘added fuel to an already burning fire’ in some cases and emphasises the need for reform in this area – to prevent individuals from being cornered into apportioning blame or raising allegations of bad behaviour or adultery.
Divorce is difficult enough as it is without having to decide whether to blame your spouse or wait 2 or 5 years on the basis of your separation. The no fault divorce bill aims to reduce conflict and allow divorcing couples to focus on other issues such as children and finances.
Considering the above, it is easy to see why people might be choosing to bide their time and hold off on filing for divorce, when there is the prospect of doing so without having to cite ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and risk further conflict. However, with the only hint at a time-frame being ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’, a stall in the progress due to the proroguing of parliament and the recent General Election, who knows how long the wait could be…