Divorce law came a step closer to its first reform in fifty years last month, after draft legislation was published asking Parliament to consider the idea of ‘no-fault divorce’
Experts realised that the current laws about divorce can lead to extra conflict and make break ups more painful than they need to be, so after some research, they have suggested the Divorce (etc.) Law Review Bill which will ask the Government to review laws on divorce and civil partnership dissolution, and look at the idea of introducing no-fault divorce. The changes are expected to be supported by members of all political parties.
The Bill was put together by a team of legal and relationship experts, politicians and family lawyers, and then introduced to the House of Lords by the former President of the Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss. The research behind it was carried out Professor Liz Trinder from the University of Exeter Law School and published by the Nuffield Foundation.
This isn’t the first time that Parliament has considered the idea of no-fault divorce. Back in the nineties, the Family Law Act 1996 was passed, law which was supposed to lead to no-fault divorce law, but because of issues with legal process, the law never made it onto the statute books and so nothing changed as a result.
Why we need no-fault divorce
Baroness Butler-Sloss said that the existing divorce laws weren’t ‘fit for purpose’ and noted that most couples who wanted a speedy divorce were forced to make allegations about unreasonable behaviour in order to resolve things quickly.
She said, “This can be very wounding for the respondent; but much more important these allegations are extremely upsetting for the children. This modest bill asks the Lord Chancellor to review the divorce law and the schedule to the bill sets out the suggestions for no-fault divorce.”
The Bill means that the Government will have to look at introducing a no-fault divorce scheme where one or both parties could register that their marriage (or civil partnership) has broken down irretrievably, without having to find ‘fault’. The divorce or civil partnership dissolution would be granted after a nine-month cooling off period, as long as it was confirmed by at least one of the parties to the marriage.
Professor Trinder said:
“We think there is a very good case for a law where divorce is granted automatically after a nine-month cooling off period, if one or both parties confirm that they still think the marriage has broken down irretrievably. That would avoid the mud-slinging that the law currently encourages and that helps nobody, not least the children.”
The Lord Chancellor will have to give Parliament a progress report in the first six months of the Bill passing and every six months until the review is complete.