No-fault changes could remove resentment from divorce

By Lenore Rice

A recent survey conducted by Grayson Solicitors has found that half of people in England and Wales believe that a “no-fault” option would shorten the current divorce process, with almost one third of those surveyed also believing that the introduction of such an option would lead to fewer arguments throughout the process.

Under current English and Welsh law, if either party in the marriage does not consent to a divorce, then compelling evidence must be shown that the spouse is at fault. The stipulations for being at fault include adultery, unreasonable behaviour, and desertion.

If compelling evidence to any of the above stipulations cannot be presented, then the couple must remain married until they have lived apart from their partner for a period of two years.  If one party challenges the divorce, then this period is extended to five years. 

Bradie Pell, partner and head of the family team at Graysons Solicitors, has outlined that under the new proposals “a no-fault divorce would establish a minimum period of six months for couples to ‘reflect’, before the marriage is dissolved.”

It is believed that the introduction of a no-fault divorce option would do a great deal to end the so-called ‘blame game’ between couples, which so often engenders deep resentment and which can be incredibly impactful on children. Of those surveyed by Graysons Solicitors, over one quarter (28%) believed that having a no-fault option for divorce would benefit children of those divorcing. Elaine Mitchell, a life empowerment coach, voiced her support for the proposals by highlighting that many divorcing couples use their children as “bait and weapons in fault divorces.”

Mitchell goes on to say that, while there are “always going to be some arguments and conflict involved in divorce…you aren’t going to introduce resentment into the equation [with a no-fault option].” While the new proposals would still require the couple involved to state declare that their marriage has “broken down irretrievably”, they would still be able to proceed with the separation without having to assign blame.

The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has declared his intention to introduce the legislation for no-fault divorce as soon as parliamentary time becomes available. Divorce solicitors in Northern Ireland are watching with keen interest the developments in England and Wales though no such change is currently on the horizon for Northern Ireland.

Other findings from the Grayson survey revealed almost one quarter of those surveyed (24%) believe that having a no-fault  option would make the divorce process cheaper.

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