A move towards no fault divorce

An update from Louise Pearce, Family Law Solicitor at our Bookham office

Just this weekend the Justice Secretary has confirmed plans to reduce conflict in divorce proceedings.

To bring a divorce in England and Wales spouses or civil partners have to show that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This is evidenced by one of five factors. Three of those require a period of separation of two years or more. This is further complicated if a party will not consent to a divorce based on two years separation which means a party has to wait until they have been separated for 5 years, when their consent is no longer required. So to get a divorce straight away couples have to choose adultery or what has become known as unreasonable behaviour. With adultery petitions not being possible in the dissolution of civil partnerships. One party therefore has to blame the other for the relationship breakdown and this made up almost half of all divorce petitions recorded for 2017.

Solicitors and other organisations have for a long time supported government change and have called for a no fault divorce system brining us in line with other countries.

In what is often a difficult time for both parties, having to blame one another when they have both decided they no longer love each other or no longer want to be together is unhelpful to say the least. It can also add unnecessary acrimony when parties need to work together to resolve their finances or make arrangements for their children.

The proposals for consultation which were launched on Saturday (15th September) include:
• retaining the sole ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage
• removing the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart
• introducing a new notification process where one, or possibly both parties, can notify the court of the intention to divorce
• removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application
The consultation also invites views on the minimum time frame between the Decree Nisi and the final divorce (Decree Absolute or final order) which is presently 6 weeks and 1 day if you are the party petitioning party and which is increased by an additional three months thereafter, if you are the respondent in the proceedings.

The consultation closes on 10th December 2018 so do have your say here https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/reform-of-the-legal-requirements-for-divorce/.