The Arguments Surrounding No-Fault Divorce
Ending a marriage is a difficult and complex decision, one that should be never taken lightly. Normally undertaken because the behaviour of one party became unacceptable and the relationship was unsavable. But there is another reason that people are divorcing, Referred to in celebrity circles as ‘concious uncoupling,’ occasionally the love diminishes but the friendship survives. In the case of those relationships that had merely petered out, the people involved had to either apportion blame, something that could lead to pain and animosity, or stay separated for 2 years. All that changed on 6th April 2022. On that day the UK Government made the decision to introduce No-Fault divorces as part of the Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020. Whilst most people would assume that being able to extricate yourself from a relationship easily and without animosity would be a good thing, there have been some loud and outspoken critics of the new legislation. Below we will delve into the advantages of no-fault divorces, and the reasons that critics say no-fault divorces will ruin the nation.
What is a no-fault divorce?
For over 50 years divorce has been fault-based. This means that one of the partners in the relationship has to be to blame for the marriage falling apart. The person wanting a divorce had to prove that the marriage had irretrievably broken down by showing one of three reasons.
- Unreasonable behaviour
The change in the law has done away with this burden of proof, allowing a couple to end their marriage without one side being at fault.
What do the no-fault divorce reforms mean?
This new legislation has introduced a number of significant changes to how divorces are handled in British courts.
Divorce can be granted without blame
The removal of fault from the divorce proceedings now means that the divorce will be granted on the basis that the relationship has broken down. There is no longer be any need to prove that a spouse has been unfaithful or unreasonable, opening the door for more amicable separations.
Joint applications can be made
Under previous rules, one partner must issue divorce proceedings against the other. With no-fault divorces, both parties will be able to make an application. This could have financial implications as the partner against whom proceedings may have been brought will no longer have to cover the costs of proceedings.
Minimum time frame for divorce
A timeframe of 20 weeks from the application of the divorce to the divorce being granted has been introduced. This ‘period of reflection’ is designed to give couples time to consider their differences and resolve any issues before proceeding with the divorce
Divorces can no longer be contested
Before this legislation was introduced one party could contest the divorce. This often led to acrimony, financial hardship and elongated proceedings. The new legislation states that divorces can no longer be contested, streamlining the process and saving the couple time and money.
Advantages of no-fault divorce
The biggest advantage of the no-fault divorce is that it gets rid of the need to place blame on one partner for the divorce. For those couples whose relationship has merely fizzled out and isn’t working through no fault of either party, then the no-fault divorce allows them to move on with their separate lives whilst maintaining a strong friendship and platonic relationship. Campaigners say that this will alleviate the mental, emotional and relational damage that the previous legislation invariably caused.
A no-fault divorce allows the option to keep an individual’s private life private as they no longer have to disclose the details of adultery if they don’t wish to. This removes the stigma of divorce and allows people to have more control over their own lives.
For couples with children, the removal of fault will allow them to spend more time on making the divorce easier for their children by avoiding any unnecessary conflict. This will help them come to the best arrangements for their children, whether it be custody, education or financial help. Making divorce less confrontational and more collaborative can only help children acclimatise to their new domestic lives.
The reforms will also speed up the process, freeing up court time for more serious cases and saving both parties time and money. Dragging out divorce has been shown to have a negative effect on people’s mental health, already suffering from the fallout of concluding a long relationship. Making the divorce proceedings easier empowers people who may have feared divorce, whether they were merely unhappy in their relationship or scared that an abusive partner will lose control and do something dangerous. Being able to terminate the marriage in a matter of months and move on with their lives can only make their future brighter and more secure.
Critics of no-fault divorce
Whilst it may seem obvious that no-fault divorce is a good idea, there is some staunch opposition to the legislation. The most common reason is that by making it more accessible it devalues the couple’s marriage vows. They believe that ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ should be honoured, and don’t take into account those people in unhappy or unsafe marriages.
Another criticism is that because the divorce cannot be contested then it makes it easier for one person to get out of the marriage, regardless of whether the other believes their marriage has broken down. This is a very tricky issue, one in which there may not be a satisfactory answer. In this case, the partner would be best asking to go through counselling or mediation with their partner first, although there is no guarantee that this will save the marriage.
The most compelling argument against no-fault divorces is that it fails to hold partners accountable for poor behaviour. In many cases, it is true that one partner is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage, either through adultery or unreasonable behaviour, and a no-fault divorce gives that partner the option of divorcing without being held accountable for their behaviour, and as such robs their partner of their sense of justice.
Whilst it seems easier than ever to get divorced, it’s still important that you find an expert firm of divorce solicitors to help and guide you through the process. Here at Ratcliffes Solicitors of Sittingbourne, our solicitors are here for you, so call or get in touch today.