Family Partner and member of Resolution, Patricia Robinson, explores no fault divorce.
It has been a long time coming but at long last the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has reached the end of its parliamentary journey, and is now just awaiting Royal assent when it will become law.
As an active member of Resolution (an organisation of specialist family justice professionals), removing the element of blame from divorce has been something I have campaigned for and supported for many years. In my day to day experience as a family solicitor, apportioning fault on one of the spouses at the outset frequently causes unnecessary angst at what is an already difficult and emotive time.
Under the current law, where couples have not been separated for at least two years, they have no choice but to cite fault in order to obtain a divorce and a court-approved financial settlement. This means that they must either rely on allegations of unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion, thus creating a “blame game” where one has to blame the other for the breakdown of their marriage, when often they may have simply drifted apart or both played a part in their marriage coming to an end.
In many cases this only increases tensions between divorcing couples. It can also make it more difficult when trying to reach an agreement about the arrangements for their children and/or their finances.
It has been reported that when the Bill receives Royal assent, it may not take effect until the autumn of 2021.
Although the delay is disappointing, it is perhaps inevitable from an implementation perspective. When in force, divorcing couples will simply have to state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and an individual will not be able to contest their spouse’s decision to divorce. It also introduces a new option allowing couples to present a joint application for a divorce where they agree to separate.
For more on no fault divorce please check out our podcast, Case Closed. Episode 1 explores the topic of No Fault Divorce.