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Insight | For Individuals

When will we see a no blame divorce?

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A much awaited change is on the horizon for divorcing couples, which will overhaul the current fault-based system to a no blame divorce. The law in relation to divorce as it stands is extremely outdated and does not reflect the reality of the world we live in.

This is because if the parties have not been separated for a period of 5 years, the only other facts that can be relied upon to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage are: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or 2 years separation with consent.

Fault based divorce often cause delays

The latter can pose a problem if the other party is opposed to a divorce or is simply being difficult and refuses to provide consent. Similarly, issues can occur if one party petitions on the fact of adultery or unreasonable behaviour but is unable to prove some or all of the allegations contained in their petition.

As demonstrated by the case of Owens v Owens, it can also be very problematic if the responding spouse believes that the behavioural allegations made against them are insufficient and decides to contest the divorce on this basis. In this particular case the Supreme Court refused the wife’s appeal to divorce her husband and held that Mrs Owens would have to wait until a period of 5 years separation has passed before being able to divorce. This means that the couple must remain married until 2020. The delay would undoubtedly have prevented financial matters from being finalised.

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What does a no blame divorce look like?

Citing examples of the spouse’s behaviour in a petition can cause much resentment and aggravation when dealing with financial and children matters ancillary to the divorce. Although the present option of waiting for a period of 5 years separation to pass before issuing a petition is not based on fault, it can be quite disconcerting to have to wait so long for a divorce, especially in situations where either or both parties have moved on with their lives long before the 5 years has elapsed.

The newly proposed law will retain the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce and therefore the divorcing parties will still each need to state that the marriage has broken down. However, they will not need to prove the irretrievable breakdown by establishing one of the five facts. It appears that their respective statements confirming that the marriage has broken down irretrievably will be sufficient.

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New legislation will introduce the requirement of a minimum six month period which must pass between issuing a petition and the final stage of the divorce. The Government is also planning to make it possible for couples to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one party to initiate the process.

Far from compromising the sanctity of marriage, it is hoped that the new proposal will serve to reduce hostility between spouses and encourage more amicable settlements.

The reformed legislation will signify a more objective process for couples who understand that the breakdown of a marriage is not necessarily solely attributable to the other spouse.

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For uncontested divorces we can offer a fixed fee divorce for more complicated matters we offer a fixed fee meeting to help you understand your options. If you are interested in discussing this please contact us.

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