Monthly Archives: November 2015

Story of the no fault divorce

No fault divorce: don’t blame me!

Hello readers,

I have previously written a post about this subject, but it is becoming more relevant than ever. I thought, therefore, that I would update you as to the position in respect of the ‘No fault divorce’. On 13th October, Richard Bacon MP recommended an amendment to divorce law which would enable divorcing couples to make an application for a no fault divorce, on the basis that they both agree that there is no fault to lay at the feet of either party for the breakdown of the marriage. The proposal would allow a divorce “when each party has separately made a declaration that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down without a requirement by either party to satisfy the Court of any other facts“. On 13th October 2015, MP’s passed the first reading of the No Fault Bill.

Discussions and proposals to introduce a no fault divorce, have spanned over nearly 2 decades; so this is by no means a new idea. However, when legislation providing for a no fault divorce was passed in 1996, the law was eventually repealed, when a change in Government meant that the provisions were never actioned.  There have been countless debates about whether a move to a no fault divorce would diminish the sanctity of marriage by making it easier for people to divorce which may then increase the number of divorces. However, it now seems as though we are taking a step, in what I suggest is the right direction. Mr Bacon himself has made it clear that he does not wish to make achieving a divorce easier. Instead, he would simply like to create a no fault option for couples who are divorcing.

The current law states that there is one ground for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This ground must then be supported by one of 5 facts, which are as follows:

  1. Adultery;
  2. Unreasonable behaviour;
  3. Desertion;
  4. 2 years separation with consent; and
  5. 5 years separation.

It is easy to see that in the absence of 2 years separation and adultery, the only ground to be relied upon is unreasonable behaviour if the parties wish for the divorce to proceed immediately. However, it is an unreasonable behaviour petition that can often provoke unnecessary hostility and acrimony. This can even be the case where parties have initially expressed a wish to handle the proceedings in a conciliatory manner. The fact of the matter is that even if the marriage has broken down naturally, one party will ultimately have to be blamed. In this sense, the current law can be confusing. This is particularly so when parties are acting as litigant in person (without representation).  Solicitors are trained to make the particulars as benign as possible, drafting the particulars of behaviour in a subtle and sensitive way. However, even with the help of a solicitor, arbitrating blame where there is none can set proceedings off on the wrong foot, often to the detriment of any children involved.

I will keep you all updated on the progress of the No Fault Divorce Bill and welcome your opinions on the matter!

Photo by Nancy L. Stockdale via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence