Divorce law in England and Wales has not changed in over 50 years but, with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill being included in the Queen’s Speech, that’s set to change.
There has been much debate about the need for divorce law to evolve. Divorce is a deeply stressful life event, often more so when there are children. The current system is fault based (behaviour or adultery) unless parties have been separated for over 2 years and both consent to a divorce. If one party doesn’t consent then it means having to wait 5 years to be able to divorce without consent, or raising allegations.
With anxiety and emotion at a peak, parents have to try to communicate rationally regarding the needs and arrangements for their children, and how to divide finances. Introducing a ‘no fault’ divorce means that damaging and contentious allegations do not need to be written into a divorce petition and instead, they can cite irretrievable breakdown as the reason for the marriage coming to an end. It should lay the foundation for a more constructive approach to parenting apart, and making long term financial decisions. It is a matter now for the government to introduce legislation, thus we still have to operate under the existing system for the time being. At least now we have moved into the ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ stage for separating families. In the meantime, we will do everything we can for our clients in ‘fault’ based divorce cases to agree and soften the content of petitions and maintain working relations with the other party’s representative.