“It’s his fault”, “No, she’s the guilty one” – will no-fault divorce end the blame game?
Couples may be allowed to file for a no-fault divorce if plans for a radical overhaul of the divorce laws go ahead. We look at a consultation being prepared by the government that could make divorce far easier and less confrontational.
"Apportioning blame can lead to long-term damage to relationships between children and their parents and can undermine attempts to resolve matters outside of an already overstretched court system."
The call for "no-fault" divorces reached a crescendo this summer after the Supreme Court ruled that Tini Owens had to stay married to her husband against her will. In response, the government is to launch a consultation that could streamline the process.
At present, in order to seek a divorce, you have to either prove that your partner is at fault (due to adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion) or, you can divorce after two years separation (if you both agree) or five years separation (in the absence of such agreement).
The Ministry of Justice has yet to comment on the consultation, which has been widely reported in the press. Earlier this year Justice Secretary David Gauke described the argument for reform as "strong". He said he was "increasingly persuaded … that what we have at the moment creates more antagonism than we really need".
He continued: "I don't think the best way of helping the institution of marriage is by putting bureaucratic hurdles in the way of a divorce."
Reports of the consultation have been warmly received by critics of the current law, including Nigel Shepherd, a former chair of the family law organisation Resolution, who said: "Today's news has the potential to be a landmark moment for divorce law in England and Wales. For far too long, couples have been forced into needless acrimony and conflict in order to satisfy an outdated legal requirement.
"Apportioning blame can lead to long-term damage to relationships between children and their parents and can undermine attempts to resolve matters outside of an already overstretched court system.
"The government appears to have heeded our calls to make our divorce system fit for the modern age, and we will continue to push for this much-needed, overdue reform to be implemented as soon as possible."
I agree that changes to the law, the first for over 50 years, are needed and the sooner they are brought in, the better. As and when more information emerges about the consultation, I will be issuing updates.
In the meantime, if you would like advice about getting divorced, please contact me now at [email protected] or on 020 7616 5322.