Today is a significant day for family lawyers across England and Wales, as the Government confirm that a long sought after change to the law is now close to finally being introduced.
Currently the only way to get divorced immediately is by relying on the adultery of the other spouse or their unreasonable behaviour. If you want to get divorced without blaming the other spouse you must wait 2 years before you can start divorce proceedings.
However, today the justice secretary confirmed that legislation to introduce 'no fault' divorce would be introduced to parliament as soon as parliamentary time allows. Once such legislation is in place couples could choose to get divorced within the first 2 years of their separation without relying on adultery or unreasonable behaviour to prove their marriage has irretrievably broken down. The separation can therefore proceed without the need for ‘mud-slinging’ from the outset.
Resolution (an organisation with 6,500 members from the family law field) have campaigned tirelessly for a change to the divorce laws to allow no fault divorce. I am fortunate enough to be one of the National Committee members of Resolution and this is therefore a topic close to my heart.
Family lawyers like myself take the view that it will allow couples to have a more amicable and respectful divorce. The fact that there will no longer need to be blame attached to the divorce will help couples to leave their relationship with dignity. If couples are to continue to co-parent children together, this change may help them to maintain a positive relationship with each other for the benefit of their children.
It also reflects a move towards a less adversarial process in general at the time of separation. Lots of couples now look to alternative means of resolving issues about finances and children following separation, such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law, rather than court proceedings.
Critics suggest this change will make it easier to get divorced and may lead to an increase in the number of divorces. However, I think this fails to appreciate the emotional significance of coming to terms with the end of a relationship. The clients I have dealt with over the years have thought long and hard about the step that they were taking and it is a discredit to them to suggest that they would enter into a divorce without such careful consideration.
No fault divorce would not speed up the divorce process, which generally takes at least 6 - 9 months to complete. There is no such thing as a 'quickie divorce' and no fault divorce will not change that. It will continue to be a significant step which I do not believe people will take lightly.
Legislation for no-fault divorce will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time becomes available to end the “blame game” in marital breakdowns, the justice secretary has pledged.