No Fault Divorce No Longer A Pipe Dream

by Kayleigh James

For decades family lawyers have been campaigning tirelessly for an end to the blame game in divorce. Finally in June 2020, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill cleared the final stages of parliamentary scrutiny in the House of Commons.

At present, there is one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, this must be proved by one of five facts which are either adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with consent, desertion or five years separation without consent.

Divorce is an emotional and difficult time for couples who, if wanting to divorce immediately after separation must either rely on the fact of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Many have to rely on the fact of unreasonable behaviour which requires examples of the spouse’s unreasonable behaviour to be listed in the divorce petition. This of course causes much upset and can change an amicable separation into one that becomes fractious and hostile. This in turn can have an impact on the children of the separating couple and reduces the possibility of reaching an early settlement.

Couples not wishing to become involved in the ‘blame game’ have to wait until they have been separated for two years where they can then rely on the fact of ‘two years separation.’ This can also be difficult for couples as it becomes a long process of waiting.

Our current divorce law is now over 50 years old and is clearly outdated, 90% of family lawyers agreed that the reform and an end to the ‘blame game’ was a must. It is hoped that the new law will become reality in 2021.

Removing the need for blame in the divorce process will hopefully enable separating couples to remain amicable and reach settlements without the need to involve the court which can be stressful and costly for those involved.

Lawyers are still awaiting the final details of the new law but it is anticipated that the procedures will be updated and that one partner can give notice to the other that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, if both parties are in agreement the divorce can proceed and be finalised.