No fault divorce – Putting an end to the blame game

Family cut out

No fault divorce – what’s changing?

The government has announced plans to introduce a new “no fault” divorce system in the biggest overhaul of divorce laws in nearly 50 years. This article looks at what the changes may mean in practice and whether it really is possible to divorce without blame.

Currently, even if both parties agree that the marriage has ended they have to wait until they have been separated for at least 2 years before they can divorce, unless 1 party is prepared to “blame” the other for the breakdown of the relationship.

Under the government’s plans, the introduction of a “no fault” system would scrap the 5 “facts” of divorce, of which unreasonable behaviour and adultery are the best recognised, instead requiring a single statement of irretrievable breakdown. It is anticipated that if the parties agree then they could jointly apply to the court for a divorce. If only one party applies then, except in very limited circumstances, the other party would not be able to “contest” the divorce. In reality, very few cases are contested and even fewer on the basis that one party believes that the marriage hasn’t actually broken down. In contested divorce cases arguments usually involve the behaviour or adultery that has been detailed in the petition.

The government also plans to introduce a new minimum period of 6 months between the start of divorce proceedings and the final decree. This is to allow parties time to “reflect” and make important arrangements for the future. Though 6 months may seem like a long time, at present most divorces take 6 months to conclude and the final decree is often delayed until the parties have resolved financial issues.

What will the changes mean in practice?

Firstly the proposals are not law yet, although the Justice Secretary has indicated that legislation will be brought “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

The new system is designed to remove animosity and conflict from the divorce process, setting a more conciliatory tone for discussions about the practicalities of separation, particularly where there are children involved.

The proposed reforms, while significant cannot take away the hurt, sadness and confusion that follows a relationship breakdown. The new system will however allow for a simpler, less confrontational way of ending the legal tie of marriage.

Is there a way to divorce well?

Society and family relationships are ever changing. Increasingly people are recognising that even after they have separated and divorced they may still have to maintain family or business relationships. As a result family law has evolved too and there has been an increase in the number of couples engaging in mediation and collaborative law in order to help them make sense of life after divorce.

How can we help?

At Hatchers we recognise that even these procedures may not be for everyone. All of our staff are committed to providing a service which assists our clients in ending their marriage in as non-confrontational way as possible. We appreciate that every family is different and that the perfect divorce doesn’t exist. Our team of experts can help you to make the right choices for you and your family.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice regarding any family law matter – Sarah Jane Smith (01743 237644 or s.smith@hatchers.co.uk), Rachel Roberts ((01743 237643 or r.roberts@hatchers.co.uk) and Morgan Fitzpatrick (01743 237642 or m.fitzpatrick@hatchers.co.uk),