Are we about to move to a no blame basis for divorce?

12 Sep 2018

The media are currently full of reports that the Government is expected to change the law relating to divorce. This reference to a change in the divorce law is as a consequence of a leaked document and makes reference to a consultation process.  There is reason to believe that the tide has finally turned and the divorce process will no longer be based on blame. The Justice Secretary had previously stated that the argument for reform was 'strong' and that he was ‘increasingly persuaded… that what we have at the moment creates more antagonism than we really need’. Nigel Winter, Partner in the Family Law Team at DMH Stallard states: 'He is absolutely right. Since 1996 1.7 million people have assigned blame in the divorce process to their spouse; it is ludicrous, but to some extent the system encourages them to. The problem reached such a pitch that it stimulated The Daily Telegraph headline in August 2019 that 'thousands of couples exaggerate marriage faults to get to divorce'.'

Nine out of 10 family lawyers agree that the current law makes it harder to reduce conflict and confrontation both during the divorce process and afterwards. 

In assigning blame - be it adultery or unreasonable behaviour (two common grounds of a total of five) they are engaging in something of a pointless exercise as the reasons for divorce make no difference in respect of a financial settlement or the arrangements with regard to the children.  

That this law is badly in need of reform is exemplified by Scottish law which is completely different. On one side of the border (England & Wales) 60% of divorces are granted on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour grounds.  By contrast in Scotland, it is only 6%.  Winter continues: 'In short we are woefully behind the times.  Indeed we are decades behind the times – the old law (enshrined in The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973) all but compels the apportionment of blame on a legal document. No body likes to read that they behaved ‘unreasonably’ - divorce is difficult enough.'  

In the weeks and months ahead you will hear about the progress of this consultation.  However whilst the notion of no fault divorce was initially part of the Family Law Bill of 1996, the change of Government the following year prevented its introduction. The opposition now state that they are committed to no fault divorce and with the social changes of the last 22 years the chances of its introduction have never been better.

Currently there are alternatives and the legal profession has developed ways of alternative dispute resolution (ie Collaborative Law) that are years ahead of anything enshrined in the statute book.  Although there is an increased likelihood of reform and it is very welcome, it will not happen overnight. However it is possible to obtain an amicable divorce currently but we just hope that the process will very shortly be made easier.

Our expert team of divorce lawyers are highly experienced in finding solutions to complex and difficult problems. Nigel Winter is a Partner in the Family Law Team at DMH Stallard and a Collaborative Lawyer based in our Horsham office

 

 

Further reading

Use of statutory demand to make company insolvent suspended until June

Blog, Legal Updates
08/04/2021
Cheraine Williams looks at more temporary Covid-driven measures that will protect businesses and tenants from possible legal action
Read more Read

New guidance issued for valuation of flats and investigating fire safety

Blog, Legal Updates
07/04/2021
Cheraine Williams looks a the current situation facing leaseholders looking to sell or re-finance their property; will new guidance provide clarity?
Read more Read

Government sets new energy targets for domestic and commercial buildings

Blog, Legal Updates
06/04/2021
UK law requires net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; new rules and standards for heating and powering buildings will have a significant impact
Read more Read

Covid regs prevent landlords taking action to recover rent for more than 500 days

Blog, Legal Updates
01/04/2021
Just seven days’ rent arrears used to be enough for commercial landlords to take action; the latest adjustment pushes that out to 554 days
Read more Read
  • Brighton Office

    1 Jubilee Street

    Brighton

    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Gatwick Office

    Griffin House

    135 High Street

    Crawley

    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford Office

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road

    Guildford

    Surrey

    GU3 1LR

  • Horsham Office

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax

    Horsham

    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London Office

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane

    London

    EC4A 3BF

  • Get in touch