No Fault Divorce: Is It About Time The Law Changed?

Year Published: 2017

The Office for National Statistics have recently released statistics regarding marital breakdown for the year 2015. Do these figures reflect a need for the law to change and support a no fault divorce system?

In total there were 101,055 divorces of opposite sex couples and 22 divorces of same sex couples in 2015. This suggests around 42% of marriages are ending in divorce. Around half of these divorces occur in the first 10 years of marriage and as a result many will include young children.

Under the current divorce system, unless the couple are separated for two years or more before starting the divorce process, one person must blame the other for the marital breakdown. Alongside this one of the following five circumstances must be stated to support the divorce:

  1. Adultery;
  2. Unreasonable behaviour;
  3. Desertion for a period of two years;
  4. Two years’ separation by consent;
  5. Five years’ separation without consent.

What can be done if nobody is at fault?

People who agree to split amicably find that goodwill is difficult to maintain when presented with a divorce petition containing itemised examples of their blameworthy conduct.

Allegations can sour relationships causing tension and acrimony.

In the Family Law Act 1996 the government included a statement about no fault divorce, but this was not enacted.

Resolution, an organisation representing specialist family lawyers, has proposed a system whereby one person, or both, can give formal notice that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The divorce process will then follow this and after six months if one or both maintain the marriage is over, it is finalised.

This solution would assist the couple in arriving at a harmonious conclusion and help to ensure that children facing the distressing breakup of their parent’s marriage are not caught in preventable conflict. In my mind, this change in the law is long overdue. America and Australia, amongst others, have a no-fault divorce system. It’s time we followed.

For more information on the divorce process, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 7676

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