No-fault divorce law to go ahead

The government has confirmed plans to introduce no-fault divorce. No date for this has been set as the new law will be passed as and when parliamentary time becomes available. (This could take some time bearing in mind the continuing Brexit shenanigans.)

The need to put blame on the other party leads to unnecessary confrontation, increased acrimony and can be harmful to children

Under the current law, if you want a divorce you have to prove that your partner is either 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).

Critics say that the need to put blame on the other party leads to unnecessary confrontation, increased acrimony and can be harmful to children.

The need for no-fault divorce was highlighted last year when the Supreme Court ruled that Tini Owens had to remain married to her husband against her will. Although she and her husband had been separated for more than two years, her husband would not agree to the divorce. As she was unable to prove any of the other grounds she has to wait until she has been separated for five years before the divorce can go ahead. The court's decision caused an outcry in the press and led to the government setting up a public consultation on no-fault divorce.

Under the proposed law, there will be a minimum period of six months from the petition until the divorce. This is to give the couple time to reflect on their decision.

As a member of Resolution (the national organisation of family lawyers), I support the change to the law. I can see no reason why couples have to wash their dirty linen in public and apportion blame if the marriage has broken down. I have seen first-hand how distressing this can be and the negative effect it can have on both the couple and the children.

Some people have expressed concern that making divorce too easy undermines the institution of marriage. I think the six-month cooling off period is a good compromise in this respect. Ultimately, if someone wants to get divorced the law should not be able to thwart them and should not require the need to make their spouse the guilty party.

If you would like advice about getting divorced, please contact me now at [email protected] or on 020 7616 5322.