Tomorrow there is to be a debate in the House of Commons about the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales. Richard Bacon MP, for South Norfolk, is presenting a Private Member’s Bill under the “Ten Minute Rule” in the hope that the Bill will be allowed a second reading and debated in more detail at a later date.
Current divorce procedure in England and Wales
Currently a couple may only obtain a divorce without apportioning blame if they have been separated for at least two years. If they wish to divorce before then, they must allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This means that recently separated couples who are in agreement about wanting a divorce end up having to agree allegations between them simply to get the divorce through. The fact that couples in this situation are obliged to make allegations against one another flies in the face of the approach of most family lawyers who work hard to promote a non-confrontational, constructive approach to resolving family disputes and is particularly pointless given that the reasons for divorce make no difference to any financial settlement or children arrangements.
Not a new debate
The Family Law Act 1996 made provision for no-fault divorce to be introduced in England and Wales, but opponents said it made breaking up too easy and the plans were scrapped by the then government. Since then the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has spoken out in favour of no-fault divorce for which organisations such as Resolution continue to campaign.
Richard Bacon MP is seeking leave to bring a Bill “to make provision for the dissolution of a marriage or civil partnership when each party has separately made a declaration that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down without a requirement by either party to satisfy the Court of any other facts”. In other words, it is proposed that where a couple both accept that their marriage is over, they should be able to divorce without having to attribute blame.
Such an approach would be welcomed by the BLB Family team. We see at first hand in our daily practise how the current requirement to apportion blame can result in increased hurt and hostility between separating couples, which in turn can impact on their ability to agree arrangements for their children and finances. It would also bring our jurisdiction into line with many other jurisdictions around the world which already have a system of no-fault divorce.
If you would like advice in relation to a separation or divorce, please contact one of our family lawyers.
Image by Zee Pack under a creative commons license