Are you facing a No Fault Divorce?
Clients often ask what to do in situations where their marriage has broken down but it is not necessarily the fault of either party.
At present, to get divorced in the UK, one spouse must apply to the Court for a divorce from the other spouse and in doing so, is required to prove one of five facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for a period of 2 years with consent
- Separation for a period of 5 years with no consent required
Therefore, couples often find themselves in situations where they are having to complete a divorce petition based on their spouse’s behaviour while still trying to remain amiable with them. Understandably, this can cause conflict as it can sometimes seem like one spouse is blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage. In situations where neither spouse has behaved unreasonably, deserted the other or committed adultery and neither wishes to apportion blame, often the only other available option is to wait until the relevant period of separation has passed. However, delaying commencement of proceedings can cause stress and can also have an impact on the parties’ financial positions and therefore affect any financial settlement.
What can be done to avoid this situation?
Currently there is a campaign to reform divorce law in the UK so that there is no longer a need to place the blame on one spouse for the breakdown of the relationship. There is presently a Bill going through parliament which aims to reduce conflict between separating families by bringing in a system of no-fault divorce.
The Bill will introduce a new law which will replace the five facts mentioned above with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. It will also remove the possibility of defending the divorce and will introduce an option for a joint application for divorce. The Bill also proposes to change the language used in the divorce process to plain English for example, replacing the term ‘decree nisi’ with conditional order and replacing ‘decree absolute’ with final order.
The Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords in February 2020 and is scheduled to have its committee stage in 3rd March 2020. Committee stage is where the bill is considered line-by-line and is an opportunity for changes to be made to the wording or new clauses to be added.
We understand that divorce is an incredibly difficult time for many people and we hope that the reform will help to ease some of the stress associated with it. It is not clear when the no-fault divorce Bill will become law but, until the law does change, the current laws and procedure relating to divorce apply.
At Watson Thomas our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video link as needs be to ensure that your service is not interrupted.