What does it mean for you?

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No Fault Divorce

It’s all over the news that the Government has agreed to introduce No Fault Divorce, but what does this mean for you?

At present you can only get divorced if the marriage has irretrievably broken down and this statement must be supported by one of five facts:

i. adultery;

ii. unreasonable behaviour;

iii. desertion;

iv. 2 years separation with consent;

v. 5 years separation (no consent needed).

All of the above facts require an element of blame (‘the blame game’), but when divorcing there is already enough tension, stress and anxiety without the added antagonism of one spouse being forced to make allegations against the other.

The proposed new regime means that you will be able to issue a Divorce Petition without having to make any allegations against your spouse.  It is hoped that this will relieve some of the anguish faced by separating couples, which should also lessen the stress and anxiety placed upon the children of the family, which can have a hugely detrimental impact upon them.

The effect of conflict witnessed and experienced by children within divorce proceedings is well documented by Resolution, the professional body for family lawyers. According to the 2014 ComRes survey of young people aged 14-22:

- 19% said they didn’t get the exam results they were hoping for.

- 65% say that their GCSE exam results were affected while 44% say A-levels suffered.

- 24% said that they struggled to complete homework, essays or assignments.

- 11% said they found themselves “getting into more trouble at school, college or university,” with 12% confessing to skipping lessons.

- 14% of the young people surveyed said they started drinking alcohol, or drinking more alcohol than previously.

- 28% said that they started eating more or less than previously.

- 13% admitted to experimenting, or thinking about experimenting with drugs as a result of their parents’ break-up.

- 32% of respondents said one parent tried to turn them against the other.

- 27% said their parents tried to involve them in their dispute.

- 19% said that they completely lost contact with one or more grandparents.

The results of the 2015 ComRes survey of young people aged 14-22 showed:

- 82% of those who have experienced a family breakup would prefer their parents to part if they are unhappy.

- 60% felt their parents had not ensured they were part of the decision-making process in their separation or divorce.

- 50% of young people indicated they did not have any say as to which parent they would live with or where they would live.

- 88% agreed it was important to make sure children do not feel like they have to choose between parents.

- 50% admitted not understanding what was happening during their parents’ separation or divorce.

- 19% agreed that they sometimes felt like it was their fault.

- Resolution’s research suggested that many parents handle their separations well but only 50% of young people agreed that their parents put their needs first.

The disruption and detrimental impact of separating or divorcing parents is clear.  As a member of Resolution, reducing conflict and working in a non-confrontational way which puts the interests of children first is paramount to our practice.  

But where has No Fault Divorce come from and why change now?  The simple answer is the much publicised case of Tini Owens, a 68 year old woman who wanted to end her 40 year marriage, which was ultimately heard and rejected in the Supreme Court.

Baroness Hale, not only a senior family Judge but also one of the Judges presiding over the Owens case, has sought an overhaul of present legislation on the basis that it is “unjust” and Resolution has been campaigning for #ABetterWay for many years, but the case of Tini Owens, a woman who just wants to escape an unhappy marriage, forced the issue into the mainstream media, which subsequently pushed the Government into taking much needed action.

But what happens now?  Do you still need legal representation?  When will No Fault Divorce be introduced?  

Unfortunately, we do not know when No Fault Divorce will be introduced. Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has given a vague comment about implementing No Fault Divorce as soon as there is parliamentary time, but there is no timetable or implementation date.  So for the time being, the ‘blame game’ remains the only option available.

Regardless of when No Fault Divorce is finally introduced, we strongly suggest that you seek legal advice before taking any action.  Even though the divorce procedure itself may be quite straight forward and you could deal with this on your own, divorce itself does not address the related financial or children issues, both of which can be complicated and difficult to address.  We would recommend that you always seek independent legal advice before venturing into any form of legal agreement as it is important that you know your rights, what you may be entitled to, and the implications and effect of any such agreement.

At Lawcomm we believe that having legal representation means that you want to settle the issues between you as swiftly and amicably as possible in a way that will allow both of you to move on with your lives with as little confrontation as possible and with minimal impact upon your children.

Contact Sarah Lightfoot-Webber in our Family Department (Tel:  01489 8654132) or (Email: sarah.lightfoot-webber@lawcomm.co.uk), a Resolution Member (www.resolution.org.uk), for an informal chat about how she can help you.  For information on the Resolution Code in Practice, head here: http://www.resolution.org.uk/code/