Is there such thing as a ‘no fault’ divorce?

Sarah Manning, Family Associate and Mediator

More and more clients who come through our doors who wish to divorce from their spouse are surprised to find that they have to be separated for a number of years or they have to prove ‘fault’ by the other spouse for the breakdown of their marriage.

The current law allows you to get divorced if you have been married for at least a year and your relationship has permanently broken down. To prove that your relationship has permanently broken down you will need to provide one of the following reasons:

1 Adultery – your husband or wife has had sexual intercourse with someone else. This cannot be relied upon if you have lived with your spouse for 6 months or more after finding out about it. Also, this does not cover a situation if your spouse has had an affair with someone of the same sex. For example, for anyone watching Coronation Street, Zeedan wouldn’t be able to divorce Rana for adultery based on her affair with Kate;

2 Unreasonable behaviour – Your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been domestic abuse but can include not contributing financially to the home, not socialising together, no intimate relationship, arguing etc.

3 Separated for more than 2 years – Your husband or wife must consent to this;

4 Separated for at least 5 years- Your spouse does not need to agree;

5 Desertion – your husband or wife have deserted you for a period of more than 2 years. This has to be without your agreement and without good reason.

Why in this day and age is it not possible to just get divorced based on the fact that you have fallen out of love i.e. ‘no fault’?

Many years ago, citing who was at ‘fault’ for a marriage breaking down had consequences financially on the other spouse. Now this is not the case and the reason for the breakdown of the marriage does not have a bearing on the financial settlement, however the law has not been updated to reflect this.

So why is there still a need to apportion fault?

I believe it is now time for divorce legislation to be moved into the 21st century and introduce ‘no fault’ divorces into the legal system. I am a member of Resolution, who raise public awareness and understanding of family law issues. It is detailed in their manifesto that they are working towards allowing people to divorce without blame. Other more pressing issues like Brexit have taken over politically and pushed back issues such as this on the agenda, however it remains an issue that needs to be addressed. Labour committed to ‘no fault’ divorce in their last manifesto and the new justice secretary recently announced that he would be considering the change.

Unfortunately, I do not think it is something that is going to be implemented any time soon but I am confident that it will do eventually.

At present until the ‘no fault’ divorce principle is introduced, we are left with the archaic legal system where blame needs to be sighted unless parties have been separated for at least 2 years.

I offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss divorce proceedings with new clients and I would be happy to meet with you face to face or discuss your matter over the telephone. You can contact me on 0113 322 9222 or at s.manning@consilialegal.co.uk.

Read our other recent Family Law blogs:

How do I sort finances out on divorce?

What is a Parenting Plan?

Pre-nuptial agreements: protecting your future

New Year, Fresh Start...

No fault divorce - risky concept or long overdue?

Forget "Divorce D-Day" lets call January "Mediation Month"

The Myth of the Common Law Marriage

 

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