NO FAULT DIVORCE – IS IT TIME FOR CHANGE?
At Elaine Parkes we understand that family law matters are often highly emotive, especially where young children are involved, and require a comprehensive knowledge of the law. In 2018 a particular divorce case raised a lot of points for discussion, the main one being is it time for a no fault divorce? We have shared our thoughts and opinions on this topic.
The Family Law Act 1996, which was introduced by the Conservative government, provided the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales.Last year there was a lot of discussion in the media about no-fault divorce, with the Owens case. Mrs Owens petitioned to divorce her husband of 38 years owing to his ‘unreasonable behaviour’, Mr Owens disputed this and the Trial Judge refused her divorce petition. Mrs Owens appealed the decision up to the Supreme Court. They could not help. They would not interfere with the Trial Judge’s findings (although many of us practitioners did) as he was the one to make the important decision and the lower court was applying the law as it has been since 1973.
A no-fault divorce refers to a type of divorce in which the spouse who files for divorce doesn’t have to prove any fault on the part of the other spouse.If you’re looking to divorce, you might be surprised to know that ‘no fault’ divorce doesn’t exist, unless the other person agrees after a period of 2 years’ separation or you have been apart for over 5 years, otherwise you must satisfy the court that your spouse is in the wrong. In order for a divorce to proceed, a party must prove to the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In order to do so there are currently five legal facts you can use:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for over 2 years
- Two years separation with the consent of both parties
- Five years separation
Consequently, unless you can prove your partner has committed adultery or you have been separated for two years or more your only option for divorce is for you to wholly blame the other’s behaviour for the breakdown of the marriage, even if nobody is at fault and you have both agreed to separate. This often creates conflict which sets the divorce process back, which can delay the financial aspects of the separation and could have an impact on any child arrangements.A change in the law to allow no fault divorce would help a lot of people who want to divorce amicably and without further drama. As a firm we support the campaign of Resolution, a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way. Resolution have been campaigning for this for years.
If you are considering divorce, it is very important to seek legal advice. Many people often listen and talk to friends and family for advice. However, each family is unique and each divorce will be different, as it depends many different factors. At Elaine Parkes, our family law solicitors will be able to advise you on dealing with the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership.