In November of last year I wrote asking whether it was time to change the outdated divorce laws (in place since 1973) in England and Wales, by introducing “No Fault” Divorces. Many think the current fault-based divorce system exacerbates stress and tension at an already highly stressful time. There were concerns that it exposed children to the damaging impact of ongoing conflict between their parents both during the divorce and afterwards. Fault, blame and having to prove 2 or 5 years’ separation were not seen to be helping couples to move on with their lives.
The Government has finally listened to the calls for change and, earlier this month, announced that legislation will be introduced, as soon as parliamentary time allows, to establish “No Fault Divorce“. The new law would extend the grounds for divorce while retaining the underlying concept for pursuit of divorce – that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. The need for evidence of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour would be replaced by a requirement for a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
The new law would still keep the two stages of divorce – Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute – but it would introduce a new six month minimum time frame to allow a couple to “reflect” on their decision. At the end of this period the applicant will be required to affirm their decision to seek a divorce before the divorce is granted. The proposed law would also importantly remove the power of the defendant (the other spouse) to resist a divorce. There will also be an option for a joint application for divorce.
For more information or advice on divorce please contact Noelle Heath on 033 3344 9600 or visit our Family Law section of the website.