What’s a no-fault divorce – why can you wait for a non-fault divorce in the UK?

The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Bill obtained Royal Assent on 26 June 2020, ending years of lobbying to eliminate the need to blame one of the parties for wanting divorce – allowing for a no-fault divorce.

The revised legislation on non-fault divorce is expected to be applied in the autumn of 2021.

Campaign for No Fault Divorce

The movement for non-fault divorce has been going on for many years, championed by Resolution, a group mainly for family attorneys who see the harm that can be done by separating couples.

As family attorneys, we know that taking the blame away would not allow more people to divorce, as some people fear. Instead, it would allow those who conclude that their marriage or civil union is beyond possibility of redemption to live with the legal and practical repercussions without being swept up in the “blame game.”

There is still a popular belief that “fault” can have a material effect on a financial prize. The simple fact is that “evil” behaviour is seldom taken into consideration when determining what a financial settlement should be.

However, it is difficult for clients to distinguish the fact that they rely on conduct or adultery as grounds for divorce from financial discussions. The idea that if anyone is wrong, there should be a penalty for the other party is a normal human reaction.

But that is not how the courts view it in the majority of cases, and have not done so for years. Needing or having to blame causes an unwanted distraction for many people involved in the divorce process, where the emphasis should be on finding a settlement as easily and painlessly as possible.

Removing responsibility helps parents prevent needless tension in agreeing on potential plans for their children. It can be heartbreaking to see a parent use their children against the other parent. For example, by avoiding touch or making repeated derogatory remarks about their ex. Making the legal mechanism responsible for this change would help people transfer their attention from “why it happened” to “what do we need to do now to move forward?”

Resolution and many other individuals and groups working with or witnessing the effects of relationship breakdowns have long advocated for a safer way for people to split. A way that reflects on the less combative, non-litigious ways of negotiating percent agreed or discussing plans for the kids. No-fault divorce is indeed a big step down the way.

No-fault divorce Q&A

Would the divorce law lead to a rise in divorce?

If we look at other countries where the change has taken place, there has been a temporary rise in the number of divorce cases.

However, in the main, this has been motivated by a decrease in numbers in the timeframe leading to a reform in the law, as some people are willing to wait to escape the blame. The “spike” will soon return to regular levels, and the number of divorces is generally declining as fewer people get married.

Does no-fault divorce mean that we can get a swift divorce?

No, the procedure entails a period of six months before you can get a formal divorce order.

It is not likely to be faster than the current method (putting aside the delays in the overburdened court system).

Will no-fault divorce allow further marriages to split up?

No, why should that be? Couples should not get divorced because of the process. They don’t care about legal action when they decide to divorce.

This whole change does is render it a little less contentious and painful to decide whether their relationship is beyond repair.

Is it cheaper to get divorced because there is no blame?

It makes sense that if the split is less contentious, then the legal expenses will be smaller, but note that there are also financial agreements to work out and dissolve legal marriages or civil partnerships.

With a philosophy of no-blame in place, it is hoped that this would promote more positive debates leading to better and potentially less costly outcomes.

Do I have to wait for a no-fault divorce?

So if you are starting divorce proceedings, is it worth waiting for the new law to come into force (due autumn 2021)?

After all, it will remove the need to blame the dissolution of your marriage, theoretically mitigate any resentment, and make it far more likely that the plans for any multiple children and finances will be pleasant.

The following two examples illustrate that it may be a smart idea to wait for a non-fault divorce.

Scenario 1:

You’ve been part of your partner lately. Your partner is unlikely to agree to a divorce and has not committed adultery.

Under the present law, the only choice is to wait until you have been divorced for five years, or to say that your partner has acted unreasonably.

You’d prefer not to take the latter course, but waiting for five years would be unbearable, so you’re considering a ‘unreasonable conduct’ divorce petition.

How about just waiting for a default divorce to come in instead? You won’t have to make any claims against your partner, and you won’t need their consent to a divorce.

Scenario 2:

You want to initiate divorce proceedings on the grounds of your spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour.’

But they don’t want a divorce, and you’re sure they’re going to take strong objections to any claim you make, making it even longer, more costly, and more stressful.

Why don’t you wait if no divorce falls in instead of the divorce now? That way, you won’t have to make any claims against your partner, who won’t be able to justify the divorce.

Disclaimer!

Now, all of the above is just a bit of a ‘thinking exercise.’ It definitely does not reflect legal advice. If you are considering beginning divorce proceedings, you should seek advice from a practising expert family lawyer.

Fixed Price Divorce has the experience that you need. See our Divorce Lawyer page for more information.

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