No-fault divorce option moves closer for England and Wales
David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, has pledged an end to “unnecessary mudslinging” in the divorce process as he introduced the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill to the House of Commons.
The introduction of the Bill signals the first legislative step in removing the fault-based approach to divorce proceedings. Currently if either party in the marriage does not consent to a divorce, then compelling evidence must be shown that the spouse is at fault. The stipulations for being at fault include adultery, unreasonable behaviour, and desertion.
If compelling evidence to any of the above stipulations cannot be presented, then the couple must remain married until they have lived apart from their partner for a period of two years. If one party challenges the divorce, then this period is extended to five years.
The news rules will remove the requirement to provide evidence of conduct, and instead require the couple to provide a Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown. Under this Statement, the possibility of contesting a divorce will be removed, and the court will be able to make a conditional order once 20 weeks have elapsed from the beginning of the proceedings.
It is hoped that the new rules will put an end to the “blame game” engendered by current divorce laws, where the expedience of the divorce proceedings is dependent on one party essentially accepting blame for the breakdown of the marriage.
Campaigners have welcomed this step towards the introduction of a no-fault divorce process, and divorce solicitors in Northern Ireland will chart the progress of the Bill with keen interest.