A proposal for a new option of ‘no-fault’ divorce is currently under consultation in a move that would completely reform family law in England and Wales. The overhaul would include removing the need for blame to be allotted to one party via grounds for divorce and streamline the process to enable couples to separate with the minimum of acrimony.
Under existing divorce laws there is only one ground for divorce which is irretrievable breakdown of marriage. This must be proven by one of the five facts which are:
- Living apart for 2 years
- Living apart for 5 years
Only the final two options allow couples to divorce without a specific element of ‘blame’, but are often impractical for those who wish to move on with their lives as quickly as possible or cannot afford to live separately without a financial settlement being made. In most cases, couples will choose a fault-based option, meaning that one party has to accuse the other of wrongdoing, and the other must accept those accusations in order for the process to proceed. And it’s easy to see how many divorces fall trap to antagonism.
Assigning blame immediately creates opposition. The respondent may react defensively, and become more concerned with justifying their actions rather than dealing with the logistics of separation. Similarly, the petitioner may get hung up on proving their grounds for divorce, or seek ‘payback’. When the divorce process is centred on who’s to blame, things can quickly become aggressive and argumentative, with couples more interested in who’s ‘right’ rather than ‘how can we walk away from this with dignity and financial stability?’ The fact is that whoever is to blame or however badly one party may have behaved during the marriage will not (except in some very, very exceptional cases) make any difference to your financial settlement.
The most common grounds for blame-based divorce is ‘behavior’ (often known as ‘unreasonable behaviour’) which is subjective and difficult to ‘prove’ but often the best option for many couples who would otherwise seek separation based simply on the fact that the marriage has broken down irretrievably – a choice that is not currently available in England and Wales. Couples may not even really want to blame one another, or point out unacceptable ‘behaviour’ in their spouse, but see it as the only way to move the process forward.
In our experience, when a couple is able to work collaboratively to move on from the breakdown of their relationship – no matter what ‘faults’ either believe to be at its root – the process becomes much easier to cope with. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, cooperative separation looks at how separation can be achieved with the best outcome for both parties. Even more so when there are children involved, a no-fault culture that avoids blame can be instrumental in fostering a positive co-parenting relationship in the future.
The down-to-earth solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co are here to take the weight off your shoulders and help you to work together with your ex to find the right solution for your circumstances. And until the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales, we will do our best to reduce animosity and antagonism during the divorce process. Get in touch at www.franceslindsay.co.uk or call 01928 634667 to book a free 45-minute consultation with a family solicitor.