28 November, 2019
The Queen has included, in her recent speech to Parliament, the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill, otherwise known as the no fault divorce. One would hope, therefore, that this is back on the table for consideration.
In 2018 there were 92,361 divorces finalised according to the Ministry of Justice. This is over 100,000 less than the year before. Cohabitation is more and more common and so, of course, with less marriages, there will be less divorces proportionately.
Indeed, over the last 10 years the number of marriages taking place, where both parties, have previously been divorced, has fallen by nearly a third.
Divorce Law in England and Wales has not changed in over 50 years and 42% of all marriages now end in divorce.
Getting divorced is, of course, a highly stressful experience for both parties and the current difficulty we have, is predicting just when the "no fault divorce" will ever see the light of day. Now we have a December General Election, who knows how this will impact the policy change in this particular area. Campaigners who have been pushing for this change in policy have a further frustrating wait, as with a potential change or, new intake of MPs, possibly a change of Government, all with different priorities, in limited Parliamentary time, this will have a massive impact. Brexit has pushed a lot of other policy changes back considerably and an imminent change does not appear to be likely.
At present there are five factors to try and prove the ground of irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Five-year separation, without the other parties' consent, two-year separation with the other parties' consent, desertion, adultery and unreasonable behaviour. Commonly, I see clients who quite simply have just grown apart. The people they were when they got married in their late 20s' are not necessarily the same people 10, 15, 20 years' later. It is rarely down to one of the parties' fault, with neither being to blame, yet I have to explain that because of this absence of blame, they will have to wait 2-years before they can start their divorce proceedings.
In some cases that does not impact them hugely if they have been able to resolve the financial aspects amicably between the two of them, but if they cannot, then they are being penalised. You cannot issue an application to Court for Financial Remedy until the divorce proceedings are up and running. This means some couples have to wait 2-years to try and resolve their finances. I rather suspect that what happens in some of my cases, is that the parties get their heads together and then one decides to "blame" the other, with their full acceptance, just so the divorce petition can be issued and the financial matters resolved. I have no proof of this, but I do suspect this.
A "no fault divorce" will mean that this is no longer an issue and would allow couples to separate as amicably and as painlessly as possible without having to point the finger to enable them to continue to discuss parenting and other issues that will affect the family once they have separated.
Unfortunately, given both the Brexit issues and the General Election, it appears unlikely that this change of divorce policy is going to happen any time soon.
For more information contact Judith O'Brien in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01772 220022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.