The president of the High Court’s Family Division has said that couples should be allowed to divorce without having to blame one or the other.
Sir Nicholas Wall, the most senior family law judge in England and Wales, gave a speech to family lawyers at the annual Resolution conference in Leeds.
He said that there are “no good arguments against no-fault divorce” as divorce has lost its stigma and is commonplace in modern society. He stated that “in the 19th century and for much of the 20th, divorce was a matter of social status – it mattered whether you were divorced or not, and if you were, it was important to demonstrate that you were the “innocent party”. All that, I think, has gone. Defended divorces are now effectively unheard of”.
No-fault divorces were planned to be introduced in the 1996 Family Law Act but were scrapped by New Labour.
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, there is currently one ground for divorce – irretrievable breakdown. The petitioner must prove this by relying on one of five facts:
• The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
• The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
• The respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least 2 years;
• The parties have lived apart for a continuous period of 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to the decree being granted;
• The parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
It is therefore not possible for a couple to get a divorce without blame unless they have been separated for at least 2 years. For many, waiting two years to sort out their finances is not an option. They must therefore record details either of their partner’s adultery or their unreasonable behaviour in order to proceed, making an already difficult and stressful process even harder.
Despite an ongoing Resolution campaign, is not time for no-fault divorce yet according to the government. A Ministry of Justice has said that “the government currently has no plans to change the grounds for divorce or any of the reasons used to support irretrievable breakdown of marriage”.
Call us on 020 7940 4000 for more information about the services we provide. anthony gold has over 100 staff who are committed to our energetic and supportive approach to providing legal advice.