How The New 'No-Fault Divorce' Will Help Ease Emotional Strain
Yesterday saw the announcement in the news of a “No-Fault Divorce”.
This must be welcome news to many couples who have simply drifted apart to the point where their marriage has broken down, but where neither want to cite allegations of unreasonable behaviour against the other.
What is the new 'No-Fault' Divorce?
Ever since the decision of the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Owens v Owens in 2018, family lawyers and associated bodies have been campaigning for a no-fault divorce so as to ease the pain which can come with divorce for the entire family.
Separation and Divorce are a stressful and emotive time and inevitably the requirement for an immediate divorce to be based on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, commenced the proceedings with a hostile tone, despite the best attempts of lawyers to “tone down” the allegations.
The proposed reforms will remove the five existing grounds under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and instead, there will be no need to prove any ground. At present, the Respondent can choose to defend the Divorce. This is inevitably a futile exercise and can cost parties greatly both in money and the emotional strain it places on them. The advice we give is that if one party to the marriage wants a Divorce, there is generally little point in resisting.
The government will turn their attention to the exact terms of the legislation, just as soon as they have the time to do so….but in the meantime, we know that the following provisions will come with the new legislation:
- retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce
- replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
- retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
- creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
- removing the ability to contest a divorce
- introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute).
The changes to the legislation will not make a practical difference to most parties, but the emotional benefit to the family as a whole will be enormous. The Divorce Suit can be commenced on a more civil basis, allowing the parties to concentrate on the important issue of the children and how they will manage their finances.
We hope that this reform is the start of a new era in family law, which focuses on cooperation and collaboration, rather than confrontation in the Court room.