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Couples Should be Encouraged to Divorce Amicably

Political Parties Urged to Commit to No Fault Divorces

Politicians across all parties are being lobbied to embrace no-fault divorces in their manifestos for the forthcoming General Election.

Research conducted by family law body Resolution has found that the vast majority of family law practitioners believe the time has come to modernise divorce law. The findings echo those of a YouGov poll conducted earlier in the year, in which more than two thirds of people feel that no-fault divorce should be available to all.

With more than 40 percent of marriages ending in divorce, the sentiment will certainly find agreement with anyone looking to find a family law firm in London, who will already be going through one of the most difficult experiences imaginable. The current need to play the “blame game” on top of everything else is seen by most as an unnecessary requirement that simply adds to the stress and worries for all concerned.

The current rules

Unless couples have been apart for more than two years, it is necessary to cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour, such as physical or verbal abuse, drug-taking or refusing to contribute financially to the household, as a reason for divorce.

Yet all this really achieves is a blame culture that exacerbates conflict between the parties and makes it less likely for them to part amicably and reach a mutual understanding regarding important aspects such as finances and childcare.

The no-blame divorce

The concept of a no-blame divorce is not a new one, and is enshrined in the family law of many countries, including The Netherlands, Spain, Australia and certain states in the USA.

It makes sense, as there is overwhelming research evidence that the majority of divorces do not come about as a result of adultery or “unreasonable behaviour,” as defined in the current statutes. This leaves the divorcing parties with the choice of either waiting till they have been apart for two years so that they can cite “desertion” or coming up with a reason along the lines of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, purely for the purposes of getting the divorce application in.

Whichever way you look at it, the system is clearly not fit for purpose as it currently stands.

Separation rules

Some argue that the “two year separation” rule has sound logic behind it, as a reverse application of the “marry in haste, repent at leisure” proverb. However, even they generally advocate a change to the current rules.

Resolution’s proposal is to provide the option for a no-fault divorce if either party gives formal notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and remains of the same view six months later.

Reducing the two year timeframe in this way could certainly be a solution that works better for everyone.

A “half way house” would be to follow the model adopted in Scotland, where couples can mutually agree to divorce after 12 month of separation. The effect of this has been that family lawyers now actively encourage parties to wait for the specified period instead of citing unreasonable behaviour or adultery, resulting in a more amicable divorce process for all concerned.

What route the political parties will take is yet to be seen, but there can be little doubt that divorce law is long overdue an overhaul. Now is the perfect time to get it to the top of the political agenda.

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