It’s been a long time coming, but no-fault divorce legislation is set to be introduced in the next session of parliament. With an end to the fault-based system in sight, Rebecca Silcock, Partner and Head of Family, looks at the reasons why it would reduce conflict and stress.
Couples don’t enter into marriage expecting it to fail. But the truth is that couples do decide to separate and apportioning blame can cause unnecessary acrimony.
As things currently stand, under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, divorces can only be granted on certain facts. If couples agree to divorce they can after two years of living apart or they can divorce after having lived apart for five years. However, if couples cannot wait they have to rely on adultery, desertion or unreasonable behavior.
As many couples don’t want to wait for two years the insistence on finding fault and allocating blame can lead to resentment and anger between couples, affecting everyone in the family, particularly children. Conflict is created, setting divorce proceedings off on a negative footing and making the entire process more difficult than it often needs to be. It also means financial resolution is more difficult.
A no-fault system would mean that no reason for the breakdown of the marriage would be required and the right to contest a divorce could be abolished. Couples could divorce without one spouse needing to blame the other or having to wait for several years, which will undoubtedly reduce animosity.
A public debate launched by the Government last year on proposals to modernise legislation received overwhelming support. As a result, the justice secretary, David Gauke, has drawn up plans to end the fault-based divorce system and will put the reforms to MPs at the next session of parliament.
This much needed change to legislation isn’t about making divorce an easy option. In my experience, no matter the circumstances, the decision to file for a divorce is never taken lightly. It is about making the process more dignified for the entire family.