Currently, in England and Wales, a married or civil partnered couple can only divorce immediately if one spouse blames the other in legal documentation for the breakdown of their relationship. Otherwise, they have to wait for 2 years, and agree that the relationship has ended, or wait for 5 years if they do not agree.
Even where a relationship ends on the most amicable of terms, the law still requires an element of blame, with one party having to cite an adulterous relationship or the unreasonable behaviour of the other as grounds for divorce.
Our divorce law is over 50 years old. It doesn’t fit with modern perceptions or social ideals any more: Divorce and separation is far more common than it was 50 years ago, and many couples chose not to get married at all.
More and more separating couples now want to do so with dignity, and with as little acrimony as possible; beginning the process by presenting the other with a list of their wrong-doings and criticisms isn’t the best way to start matters on the right foot.
In England and Wales around 60% of all divorces that are commenced are based on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. In Scotland, where there is the option of a no-fault route, only 6% of divorces cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour. It is clear then that reform in England and Wales is long overdue.
Throughout June and July 2019 the House of Commons has been considering whether the option of a no-fault divorce might be workable in England and Wales. This means that one or both parties would be able to petition for divorce on the basis that their relationship has simply broken down.
The Divorce Reform Bill has had its second reading in Parliament, and is currently passing through with some haste. Many matrimonial practitioners are hopeful that the changes will enable separating couples to move forward with their lives in a more timely and cost effective way, and look forward to it coming into practice in the near future.
While this won’t change the emotional upheaval separation and divorce inevitably brings, it is hoped that by not having to formalise unhappy events into legal proceedings, it might help couples to work together more collaboratively with regards to separating their finances, and more crucially, for any children of the marriage.
All our family lawyers are members of Resolution, which is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.
If you would like further information about obtaining a divorce, or a dissolution of civil partnership, then please contact Rebecca Massam in the divorce and family law team on 01732 747900, email [email protected]
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.