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What is ‘no-fault’ divorce?

The ‘No-fault’ divorce bill has been in the headlines recently as the government plans to reform the divorce process to remove the concept of fault. Jennifer Hargreaves, expert divorce lawyer at Gregg Latchams, explains the meaning of ‘no-fault’ divorce and why it matters.

Divorce – the blame game

For decades, couples who would like to divorce have been forced either to prove one of the fault-based facts against their spouse (adultery and unreasonable behaviour) or wait two years – five years if their partner does not agree– to obtain a divorce. Even if both parties mutually agree the relationship is over, they still must apportion blame if they wish to start divorce proceedings immediately.

Amicable divorce

As a member of Resolution (national organisation for family lawyers) I am dedicated to helping clients to reach an amicable agreement if possible. Resolution have been campaigning for over 30 years for a change in the law. In a recent survey of Resolution members, 9 out of 10 agreed that the current law makes it harder to reduce conflict and confrontation between divorcing couples. In addition: 67% of Resolution members said that the current law makes it harder for separating parents to reach an amicable agreement over arrangements for children. It is understood that 80% of Resolution members believe that the introduction of no-fault divorce would make it more likely that separating couples would reach an agreement out of court.

How will the divorce law change?

A bill introducing “no-fault” divorces in England and Wales had its second reading in House of Commons on the 8th June 2020.  

Under the proposed law, couples will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The bill also introduces a new option, allowing couples to jointly apply for a divorce, where the decision to separate is a mutual one.

Under the proposals, there must be a minimum six-month period between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.

Will ‘no-fault’ divorce be quicker?

The bill has faced criticism that should the law be changed it would undermine the institution of marriage and would prompt a rush of couples wanting to divorce. I do not believe that would be the case. The change would simply enable those individuals who have concluded that they have no future together to resolve their differences more amicably. I believe that it is a positive step especially in situations which involve children – the less conflict children witness between their parents the better.  

I have several clients who are on amicable terms with their spouse but have simply drifted apart. The ‘blame game’ often creates conflict or resentment and can make reaching a mutually acceptable financial agreement much more difficult. In 2017, the Nuffield Foundation published the “Finding Fault” study. The study found that 43% of those identified by their spouse as being at fault for the marriage breakdown disagreed with the reasons cited in the divorce petition. The study also highlighted the following:

  • Divorce petitions are often not accurate descriptions of why a marriage broke down and the courts make no judgement about whether allegations are true
  • The use of fault may trigger, or exacerbate, parental conflict, which has a negative impact on children.
  • Fault does not protect marriage or deter divorce
  • The process would not make divorce quicker

Specialist divorce legal advice

If you would like to talk to Jennifer Hargreaves about divorce or separation please call 0117 906 9400 or email Jennifer.hargreaves@gregglatchams.com If you are ready to make a start, complete our online divorce questionnaire

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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