Amy Trevellick, solicitor at GoodLaw Solicitors LLP, discusses no fault divorce

The current process for a divorce is set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. That law, as the date indicates, was made more than 45 years ago. The key terms were also likely written several years before it became law, and so, could be more than 50 years old.

Under that law, a divorcing couple has to attribute blame to one party; the Petitioner stating that the Respondent has either committed adultery or has behaved unreasonably. If neither of these “facts” apply, the couple must wait at least 2 years from the date of their separation before they can apply for a divorce by agreement.

A lot has changed since the 1970’s, but unfortunately, divorce law is not one of them. For several years, national organisation of family lawyers “Resolution” has campaigned for a reform of divorce law to remove the need for couples to attribute blame. A consultation was finally opened in September 2018 and in April 2019, the Government confirmed it would go ahead with the proposed reforms, introducing a new law which will streamline the divorce process and reduce conflict between divorcing couples.

The planned reforms will remove the “five facts” currently set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act, used to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down;

a.      Adultery

b.      Unreasonable behaviour

c.      Desertion

d.      Separate for a period of at least 2 years, if both parties agree to the divorce;

e.      Separation for a period of at least 5 years.

Instead, parties will simply notify the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, without having to specify why or how. The plans will also allow couples to apply jointly for a divorce where they both agree, and will remove the ability of one party to oppose the divorce.

Critics of the planned reforms are concerned that the new law will make it “too easy” to get divorced and it will therefore undermine the commitment of a marriage. In response to those concerns, the Government plans to introduce a minimum time-frame of 6 months before a divorce can be finalised, thus ensuring that the couple have a “cooling off period” in which to confirm that the marriage indeed, irretrievably broken down.

Unfortunately, there is still no time frame on when the new reforms will be implemented into law and so, it could be some time until “no fault divorce” is available to separating couples. Resolution are continuing their efforts to keep the reforms in the public eye and on the Government’s agenda, to ensure that there are minimal delays.

If you would like advice regarding divorce, separation, financial agreements or arrangements for children, please contact one of our experts at GoodLaw Solicitors LLP on 01273 956270 or email family@goodlawsolicitors.co.uk

You can also find further support and information on our website: www.familylawbrighton.com