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No fault divorce still under debate

In the UK, according to statistics published by the ONS, almost 62% of divorces (in 2012) were fault based with 47.9% being based on unreasonable behaviour.

The government has previously considered amendment to legislation in order to introduce a “no-fault” based divorce. It was thought this would reduce bitterness between partners and lessen the potentially damaging impact on everyone concerned. Couples were to attend information meetings which included the availability of marriage counselling and to consider the welfare of the children.

In 2001 the government found that the proposed provisions would be “unworkable” and the amendments were not implemented.

There have continued to be calls for a change to the divorce procedure despite this being rejected. The House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on this matter on 1 November 2016. Senior members of the Judiciary have continued to call for a no fault based divorce.

In April 2015 Baroness Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court wanted to see acrimony removed from matrimonial disputes with divorces being granted without someone being at fault.

Resolution (formerly Solicitors Family Law Association) has called for the removal of blame as it can create conflict between partners. A new procedure is proposed whereby one or both partners can give notice that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If after 6 months they still want the divorce to be finalised, then it can be.

One concern about the no fault procedure is that it could increase the number of divorces. This is refuted by Resolution who point to the situation in Scotland, whereby numbers did increase after reforms in 2006 but within2 years the rates had reverted to pre-reform levels.

Whether there will be a change to the law to a no fault based system is a matter for ongoing debate. We are likely however to see some change to the current system in years to come which could mean partners no longer having to wait for 2 years for a no fault based divorce.

Author: Sharon McKie, specialist divorce solicitor

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