The start of ‘no fault’ divorce?

Rebecca Higgins Blog

This week, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill cleared it second reading in the House of Commons. This leads us one step closer to reforming the law regarding divorce and ending the ‘blame game’.

What will change?

If the Bill is passed, the following changes will made to the divorce procedure as we know it:

  • Parties will only have to state that their marriage has broken down irretrievably and they will therefore no longer have to rely on one of five facts to prove it. The five facts being adultery, behaviour, desertion, 2 years’ separation with consent or 5 years’ separation (please see our previous blog for more information).
  • Parties will have the option to apply for divorce together.
  • Decree Nisi & Decree Absolute will be replaced with Conditional and Final Orders, respectively. Therefore a 2 stage process will remain in place.
  • There will be a minimum waiting period of 6 months between issuing the divorce and applying for a Final Order.

Is this a good thing?

Our position is yes. As the law currently stands, unless parties wait for two years following their separation, they can only initiate divorce proceedings by relying on adultery or behaviour. This effectively forces one party to ‘blame’ the other for their marriage coming to an end, even if the decision was mutual.

When relying on the above to petition for divorce, this can create/increase conflict between parties, even when they have previously been dealing with matters amicably. This can have a negative knock-on effect when trying to discuss finances and even arrangements for children. Therefore, no fault divorces will hopefully reduce conflict and allow matters to progress smoothly and quickly – thus avoiding any unnecessary costs too.

Some commentators think that the reform undermines the commitment to marriage and allows parties to too quickly ‘give up’. However, it will remain the case that parties have to be married for 1 year before they can petition for divorce and the 6 month waiting period will be in place too – as referred to above.

We will continue to follow the progression of the Bill and provide updates.

As it stands, the current law will remain in place for a little while longer and we continue to be able to provide expert and up to date advice in respect of it.

For further information, or to arrange an appointment please contact us on 01274 861096 (Liversedge) or 01423 637272 (Harrogate) or email enquiries@barnesclarkfamily.law. Alternatively, use our contact form. Please note that we offer a free half an hour consultation.