It’s long been a contentious issue that those seeking a divorce have been limited in what grounds they can rely upon to proceed.
At present there are five options that the petitioner can rely on these are:
• unreasonable behaviour
• living apart for at least two years with consent
• living apart for at least five years
While these reasons will fit certain circumstances exactly as they are meant to, there is often not a specific reason why a marriage has broken down. When this happens, the only course of action, if a couple wishes to obtain a divorce sooner rather than later, is to rely on the other’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
While this reason may fit in some cases, those wanting an amicable separation may feel it’s unfair to suggest ‘unreasonable behaviour’ when no one has acted unreasonably. Of course, it may be possible to discuss how ‘unreasonable behaviour’ can be used as a reason for divorce. Even so, those two words may carry stigma for some.
It’s very possible neither of you have behaved unreasonably, one party may then feel like they have to shoulder the blame, when it’s not actually theirs, or anyone’s, fault.
While many agree to this, it’s often not without some soul searching and compromise as to what ‘unreasonable behaviour’ actually means for them. This can cause unnecessary arguments and create an ongoing ill-feeling between the parties who are trying to divorce in an amicable way, especially where children are involved
For this reason, The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has sought to create a sixth reason for divorce, ‘no-fault’.
This is fantastic news for couples who have simply found that they have fallen out of love with each other, and no longer want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. With no-fault, the couple can petition for divorce without the apportionment of any blame.
The Law Society has said also welcomed the news, saying that “no-fault divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century”.
The reforms to The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill have been passed, and after a further amendment is considered by the House of Lords, it will shortly receive Royal assent.
While most reforms are usually put in place at the moment of Royal assent, the Lord Chancellor has said it will not come into force until autumn 2021 to allow for “careful implementation”.
Although this is still sometime away, it is a giant step in the right direction to making the process less acrimonious and to limit areas of conflict, starting the parties on the right foot from day one.