The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill gained Royal assent on the 26th June 2020, ending years of campaigning to remove the need to blame one of the parties when seeking to divorce allowing for no-fault divorce.
The new no-fault divorce law was due to be implemented in the autumn of 2021. However, in June 2021 it was announced that the reform is to be delayed until April 6th, 2022.
The campaign for no-fault divorce has been running for many years, supported by Resolution, an organisation primarily for family lawyers who see the damage that blame can cause to separating couples.
As family lawyers, we recognise that taking away blame will not encourage more people to divorce as some people fear. Instead, it will help those who decide that their marriage or civil partnership is beyond hope of reconciliation to deal with the legal and practical consequences without getting caught up in the “blame game”.
There remains a common misconception that “fault” will materially impact a financial award. The simple truth is that “bad” behaviour is rarely taken into account when calculating what a financial settlement should be.
However, it is difficult for clients to separate the fact that they are relying on behaviour or adultery as the reasons for divorce from the discussions about finances. The belief that if someone has been wronged, there should be a consequence for the other party is a natural human reaction.
But that is not how the courts regard it in the vast majority of cases and have not done so for decades. Needing or wanting to blame creates an unnecessary distraction for many people engaging in the divorce process where the focus should be on reaching a resolution as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Removing blame helps parents avoid unnecessary conflict when deciding on future arrangements for their children.
It can be heart breaking to see a parent use their children against the other parent. For example, by denying one or other contact. By taking blame out of the legal process with this will help people to move their focus away from “why it happened” towards a mindset of “what do we need to do now to move forward?”
Will the no-fault divorce reform lead to an increase in divorces?
If we look at other countries where reform has taken place, there has been a temporary increase in the number of divorces. However, in the main, this has been driven by a drop in numbers in the period leading up to the change in the law as some people are prepared to wait to avoid blame.
The “spike” then soon returns to normal levels and divorce numbers generally are in decline as fewer people are getting married.
Does no-fault divorce mean we can have a “quickie divorce”?
No, the process involves a period of six months before you can obtain a final divorce
Will it be cheaper to get divorced when there is no blame?
It makes logical sense that if your separation is less contentious, then the legal costs will be lower, but remember that there are often financial arrangements to sort out as well as dissolving the legal marriage or civil partnership.
With a no-blame in place, it is hoped that this will encourage more constructive
discussions leading to better and therefore less expensive outcomes.