No Fault Divorce, Happier Ever After?

Within the remit of Family Law the idea of an amicable divorce is something that has been discussed more and more in recent years. Nigel Shepherd who is the Chairman of Resolution (an organisation of family lawyers that campaigns for and seeks better ways to divorce) has called on political parties to commit to a no fault divorce in their manifestos ahead of the general election on 8th June.

The law, as it currently stands, does not allow for a no fault based divorce. The current basis for divorce is that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. There are five facts which are accepted by the Court to prove that a marriage has irretrievably broken down:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years separation with consent
  5. Five years separation without consent

Placing blame on one or other party within the divorce process can cause emotional upset and sour what might otherwise be an amicable separation. In a divorce petition, the petitioner will outline the reasons as to why the marriage should be dissolved and these reasons should directly relate to the fact for divorce relied upon. Therefore, relying on adultery and unreasonable behaviour require the petitioner to detail to the Court the respondent’s behaviour which can, inevitably, cause friction between the parties.

We see many examples of tensions in a relationship escalating upon petitioning for divorce is Mel B and her husband Stephen Belafonte; it only takes a quick Google search to see headlines including phrases such as “divorce battle”, “bitter divorce” and “divorce war”. A no fault divorce may be a good way to avoid friction and although it may not be appropriate or feasible in many cases, it will give those that wish to avoid any bitterness a sensible alternative.

Brad Pitt recently told GQ magazine that both he and his wife Angelina Jolie abandoned a path of “vitriolic hatred” and are seeking to work together to sort out their issues. Initially, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce generated a huge amount of media interest and was reported as being fairly heated, however they have managed to work through their issues and a no fault divorce would offer an opportunity to move on without revisiting the accusations which were reported to have created hostility at the outset. Celebrity couple Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow famously went through a ‘conscious uncoupling’, which is where parties to a relationship announce its ending, yet, at the same time, assure others that the decision was made only after careful consideration and remorse. The couple have been able to maintain good relations and have prioritised their children to uphold a family environment whilst accepting they should remain separate. This may have pathed the way for a new model for an amicable divorce.

The option of a no fault divorce could streamline the divorce process for many separating couples. This could avoid conflict in the divorce process and encourage collaboration when agreeing what happens after divorce. The statistics show that the majority of the general public feel a no fault based option should be available and it will therefore be interesting to see if any of the main political parties will take note of Nigel Shepherd’s comments in the run up to the June election. At QualitySolicitors our Resolution accredited solicitors have years of expertise when it comes to divorce and can help make a stressful experience more manageable, to speak to one of our friendly experts call us today on 08082747557.

To read the full article on the campaign for no fault divorce please click here.

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