What Could “no fault divorce” Mean for Separating Couples?

The recent recommendation for the introduction of “no fault divorces” has generated significant discussion and divided opinion.  

The Present Position 

Currently to be granted a divorce in the United Kingdom, the court must be satisfied that the marriage has completely broken down and cannot be saved. This can be evidenced by proof of adultery, desertion, separation for two years and both spouses agreeing to divorce, or separation for five years. The person who is seeking the divorce, the Petitioner, must prove to the court that they have been separated from their spouse for a prolonged period, or that their spouse’s actions have contributed to the end of the marriage, effectively blaming their spouse for the failure of the relationship. Once the divorce proceedings have begun if the responding spouse disagrees with the reasons given in support of the divorce, the Petitioner must provide additional information to the court to enable the divorce to proceed, such as proof of adultery or evidence of their spouse’s behaviour.  

The Proposed “no fault” Divorce  

The suggested “no fault” divorce system would be an administrative rather than a court-based process, enabling couples to legally end their marriages without the requirement to prove that one spouse was to blame for the marriage breakdown. Additionally, spouses who have separated amicably would not have to wait for two years to commence divorce proceedings.  

Would The “no fault” System Work?  

Supporters favouring the “no fault” approach to divorce have suggested the system if implemented would reduce animosity between separating couples during often difficult and stressful periods in their lives, whilst enabling spouses to agree the terms of their divorce themselves can avoid court proceedings, reducing time and costs of the divorce process.  

Critics, however, believe a “no fault” approach would excessively simplify divorce proceedings, which could both damage the sanctity of marriage and lead to an increase in divorce rates. It has been suggested that where adultery or unreasonable behaviour has been alleged, the offending spouse should be held to account for their actions, which would not occur in no fault divorces.  

Conclusion  

It is clear that divorce can be an anxious and difficult time for couples as significant changes to the family dynamic are navigated. However, given the complex nature of relationships, any future proposed changes to divorce law will need to be implemented with considerable care and sensitivity.   

-Natalie Thomas

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