Married and civil partnered couples in England and Wales will no longer have to blame each other for the end of their relationship, with the introduction of no-fault divorce due to become law soon.
The existing system can cause unnecessary conflict between the separating couple and any children they have. Finding fault, and combing through evidence of that fault, is both emotionally draining and time-consuming, and unsurprisingly can affect family life. A new bill is currently being tabled in the House of Commons to change this.
Currently there are five different reasons, or ‘facts’, you can cite in a divorce case:
- Behaviour (‘the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent’)
- Two years’ separation (with both parties consenting to divorce)
- Five years’ separation
The court then has to examine the evidence of reported conduct or separation. With the no-fault option, couples would have the autonomy to decide their relationship has broken down irrevocably. The Law Society is in favour of this change.
Critics may argue this could lead to partners divorcing before they have worked on their difficulties and sought help, but this is not about rushing people towards the decision to stay together or separate. It is about reducing the stress, time and costs after that decision has been made.
At the moment one half of the couple can also contest the divorce, which is rare, but can be used as a tactic by abusers to exert control. By also removing the opportunity to contest the divorce, lawmakers could potentially help abused partners escape their abusers quicker, and cause less trauma in the process.
Speaking on the changes to be made, Justice Secretary David Gauke said, “It cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”
The change in the law was brought about after a public consultation, involving divorcees, lawyers and expert charities including Coalition for Marriage, Families Need Fathers, Stonewall and Women’s Aid.
Written by guest contributor Vikram Das for Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).