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No fault divorce - nine out of ten lawyers agree…on something!

21 Jun 2018

And that is that reform of the divorce laws is long overdue.

Incredibly the law hasn’t changed since 1973 – during which time we can all agree there has been a few social changes. 

The biggest problem is that currently in law someone has to be at ‘fault’. However, in reality, there can be very few who actually believe that relationships  break down solely and exclusively because of one solitary party. Yet you still have to ‘blame’ your spouse or wait anything between two or five years. This preliminary step takes place against a backdrop of the courts rightly encouraging parties to settle matters relating to finances and children amicably and indeed by way of mediation if possible. It hardly enhances the prospect when the whole process gets under way with one party ‘pointing the finger’ at the other and in cases of alleged ‘adultery’ and ‘unreasonable behaviour’ actually seeking a court order that they pay the other party’s legal costs!      

A great start?
The calls for ‘no fault divorce’ have become louder recently with the family lawyers professional body Resolution, increasing their calls for reform. Whilst lawyers may not agree on everything, nine out of ten lawyers that practise family law do agree that the current law makes it harder to reduce conflict and confrontation.

As a consequence of the ‘blame requirement’, some 60% of divorces in England cited either adultery or unreasonable behaviour as a ground for divorce, compared with a mere 6% in Scotland. And of those English divorce’s  (the 60%?), well over a quarter admitted the allegation, even though it was false, purely and simply because it was the easiest option. 

This must be wholly unsatisfactory. Indeed research underlines that blame-based divorce often aggravates feelings of injustice and recrimination as well as making it harder for the parties to put the children first.

The solution?
Resolution proposes reform of the existing law whereby parties can divorce on the basis that neither is at ‘fault’. This would simply involve one or both parties giving ‘notice’ that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The divorce can then proceed and after a period of six months, if either or both think they are still making the right decision, the divorce is finalised.  

Notwithstanding the speed at which law reform occurs (often painfully slowly), many family lawyers adhere to a code of conduct that strives to keep conflict to a minimum.

If you are considering your own family situation, DMH Stallard run a family law clinic from their Horsham office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday. For more information call 01403 252492.

This article was previously published in The District Post.

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