Friday, 22 January 2016

UPDATE: No Fault Divorce

I first wrote about no fault divorce on this blog in June 2012 (you can read my original post here).

Despite there being continued support from the family law community for this reform we are now in 2016 and spouses still have to assign blame by either citing their partner’s adultery or bad behaviour in order to be able to issue a divorce petition immediately. The alternative is to separate and wait two years before filing a petition which both parties consent to. This is not appealing for those wanting to move on with their lives.

It is difficult to see how anyone could support the current system. Even the most anodyne of accusations can increase hostility which can damage the parties’ ability to communicate constructively, (a significant problem if there are children involved), reduce the chances of reaching an amicable financial settlement and increase legal costs. 

No fault divorce could go a long way to improving matters and there may be change on the horizon. Today (Friday 22 January 2016) the House of Commons is debating a private members bill introduced by Conservative MP Richard Bacon which would allow for a joint petition to be filed immediately when both parties agree that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.

The Bill would amend the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and The Civil Partnership Act 2004. It would also stipulate a minimum period of 12 months between the granting of decree nisi and decree absolute as opposed to the 6 weeks for divorcing on other grounds. Still, waiting 12 months for the final decree in a divorce must be better than waiting two years before you can even issue a petition. In addition, a final financial settlement could be negotiated and approved by the court during that time, providing the parties with better certainty as to their futures.

A link to the No Fault Divorce Bill can be found here.