No-fault divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill recently progressed through the House of Commons, offering hope to those seeking amore amicable separation.

In early June 2020, the proposal to offer a more conciliatory route toward divorce passed through commons with little contest, offering greater hope to those wishing to move on from a fractured marriage without lengthy periods of waiting, or bitter disputes over blame.  Rather than insisting on lengthy separations or for faults to be attributed on one party, this new revision represents a more understanding approach toward divorce. Read more below.

What are the current requirements for divorce?

Under current legislation, a couple wishing to divorce will need to live separately for at least two years before divorce proceedings can take place; if one person refuses to agree to the divorce, however, then this period of separation must last for five years.

If both parties are in agreement, however, and want to divorce before the two years have been completed, then at least one of the following reasons must be given:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour, including violence, drug use, drunkenness, verbal abuse or refusing to pay toward the costs of living.
  • Desertion

Of course, whatever route both parties choose to take, lengthy periods of separation and drawn-out disputes can be extremely mentally taxing for all involved, and can cause those suffering to feel ‘trapped’ within a stage of their life from which they feel ready to move on. For many couples looking to circumvent a lengthy separation, the only option is for one to allocate blame to the other, which can turn an otherwise amicable split into something far more bitter, and cause a great deal more emotional upheaval than necessary.

For couples with children, maintaining stability amid significant upheaval is often made much more difficult by these lengthy procedures. A solution that facilitates family life and seeks to “reduce parental conflict”, say Cheltenham divorce lawyers Willans, is long overdue.

What is the no-fault divorce?

The proposition for a no-fault divorce under the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will make the process of ending a marriage much simpler for both parties. Most notably, it will allow for a joint application for divorce to be made by both parties, and for the ascription of blame to be replaced by the formal assertion that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Furthermore, the opportunity for the divorce to be contested will be removed

Under these proposed changes, the process of seeking a divorce will have the potential to be far more manageable for both parties. The emotional upheaval of a long separation or the allocation of blame for unacceptable behaviour can be avoided, and couples can aim to end their union without resorting to hostilities.

Despite a few obligations owing to the importance of reconciliation over disunion — and the pressures the outbreak of Covid-19 has placed on marriages — the bill has been agreed by the house of commons. This marks a clear, long-awaited breakthrough for those seeking greater flexibility and understanding when a lifelong commitment is no longer possible.