Would the UK benefit from a no-fault divorce system?
Roughly 9 out of 10 people who took part in Martin Lewis’s recent Twitter poll, whether divorced or not, were in favour of a no-fault divorce system. A very significant result, but would a no fault divorce system really benefit the UK?
There has been great debates surrounding the subject and no fault divorces have proved to be successful in other countries, however the second reading of the No Fault Divorce bill in 2016 seemed to suggest that the idea is yet some way off for the UK.
A no-fault divorce means that a couple need not prove any instances of wrongdoing or abuse in order to file for a divorce in a court of law. Without this option the party seeking the divorce must prove one of the following five facts in accordance with section 2 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation without consent
It is certain that there is an argument that marriage no longer carries as much weight or support as it once did. Marriage can mean whatever the couple want it to mean, irrespective of what the divorce lawyer in Vaughan say. A no fault divorce can of course save money for respective parties but also allows for separation to take place amicably and prevents the parties from throwing mud at each other which would in turn benefit marriages where children are involved, and the courts would be left to deal with the harder aspects of ending a marriage.
A no-fault divorce would also take away the stigma society places on divorce, where a marriage can end with no one party at fault.
However, there are still reasons why the five facts above should remain unchanged.
The problem with the current system is that couples are required to find fault with their spouse and in order to ensure they are guaranteed a divorce some are asserting false blame. In 2016 a government survey shown that some 27% of couples who asserted blame admitted the allegation was actually false, this could apply to almost 20,000 divorce petitions over a four year period.
Sir James Munby, president of the High Court of England and Wales has made clear that if his suggestions for reform were implemented, then the law would make divorce no easier than it is at present, making reference to the option of divorce by consent. If parties consent to the divorce and are able to establish the grounds for a divorce (which it is very easy to establish), the process is essentially a bureaucratic, administrative process, albeit one conducted by a district judge. What Munby is suggesting here is that in theory the UK do already have an option within their system similar to the “no-fault” divorce system.
The main opposition to the faultless system comes from religious groups and traditionalists who fear that divorce will become more prevalent, without evidence to show this it is difficult to say what would happen but the no-fault system is proven to work in countries such as the US, Netherlands and even largely Catholic Spain, where divorce rates have actually decreased.
There is also the psychological processing of the end of a marriage to consider which for most people can be very difficult. The opportunity to inform a judge of the behaviours, circumstances and facts that led to the break-up of the marriage can be important parts of a divorce for many people. People like to be heard and have their reasons validated as part of the “moving on” process.
The opinions reflected as part of this ongoing debate do come down to individual circumstances and beliefs, the debates will continue but whether the system will be implemented in the UK is yet to be seen.
If you need legal advice on the issue of divorce please contact Alex Spiro and family law specialists Maguire Family Law by email email@example.com or telephone:
Wilmslow 01625 544650
Knutsford 01565 648228
London 0207 9474219
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