The Justice Secretary has today pledged that new legislation will be introduced allowing parties to divorce without the need for blame.
As the law stands we are bound by a very archaic piece of legislation which dates back to 1973. To get a divorce, one spouse must cite either adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. The alternative is to wait for a period of 2 years separation and then divorce by agreement or divorce without agreement after a period of 5 years separation. However, immediately following a separation, practical considerations need to be given with regards to financial issues, which means divorce proceedings may need to start sooner rather than later. Often parties are not in a position to wait 2 years.
So No Fault Divorce is on its way. I do not stand alone, as a family solicitor, cautiously welcoming this piece of news. Note that I say ‘cautiously.’ As lawyers we have been calling for reforms to this legislation for many years, with plenty of acknowledgments from the powers that be agreeing reform would be a good idea. We now have the official nod that it is going to happen but there is still the question of when? According to national news sources, “As soon as parliamentary time allows…” I guess that comment alone could open up a whole new debate. I won’t go there today!
The reform is long awaited and in my view the most sensible way forward. As a member of Resolution, along with many other family lawyer members, I am committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes and follow a Code of Practice that provides a non-confrontational approach to family problems. The current law conflicts with this ethos. Separation, even if amicable, can be very difficult. To lay blame on one person for the separation is often a distortion of the reality of the situation. It causes unnecessary conflict between parties at a time which is particularly fragile, especially when there are children involved. The focus should be on reducing, not exacerbating, conflict within the family. Often the reason for divorcing is unlikely to have any bearing on the financial arrangement between the parties and more often than not can be a consequence of many different factors.
So I look forward to writing my next chapter within this episode “No Fault Based Divorce Bill - Passed by Parliament!” I’m just not sure when that will be.
By Teresa Bennion, Partner.
Teresa is a family solicitor, Member of Resolution First for Family Law and Accredited Family Mediator