Radical reform sees the introduction of a no fault divorce
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Neale Grearson, head of the family department at Clapham & Collinge, explains the new no fault divorce option.
“D-day” for divorce has traditionally been January 2 each year. This has been the day when most divorces are started for a whole range of reasons including the traditional “New Year's Resolution”. This date may change, however, when on April 6 massive changes to introduce a no fault divorce will come into play.
This is the biggest change in divorce law and procedure for decades. It comes as a result of a massive campaign to change the current law for divorce based on fault or what has been called the “blame game” by Resolution , national association of family lawyers campaigning to change this for many years.
The current law for a divorce is based on not just irretrievable breakdown of a marriage but on one of five reasons. For an immediate divorce they are adultery and unreasonable behaviour, which has led to the divorce itself becoming the source of increased animosity even when a husband and wife accept that a marriage has broken down and they would like there to be a divorce.
It led to criticism as to what should be sufficient to be classed as unreasonable behaviour to enable a divorce to take place. It has also led to court proceedings surrounding defending a divorce. All of that is going to change.
From April 6, 2022 pressure will be taken off the process for the divorce itself. Whilst there still may be a lot of acrimony around financial arrangements and the situation about children, the aim is that these key aspects are not made worse by a dispute over the basis of a divorce especially where both parties accept that the marriage is over.
From 6 April there will be a minimum period of 26 weeks from a divorce being started and the terminology will change from the current outdated definitions such as Divorce Petition and Decree Nisi.
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Husbands and wives will be able to file joint applications for a divorce which is also ground-breaking. Procedurally the divorce should be much more straightforward, especially as defending a divorce will not be possible and the divorce itself will take place online through the Government divorce process which is already in place.
Sadly, this change in the divorce law will not on its own mean that all aspects of a divorce are dealt with amicably between a husband and a wife. However, it should take away one major source of argument over the actual divorce and it is hoped will lead to greater co-operation especially surrounding children when their parents go through a divorce.
When a marriage has broken down it has achieved very little for a husband and wife to have to blame the other and for example to have to produce details of the other’s unreasonable behaviour. That in itself has often caused more problems and increased the very emotive atmosphere that will inevitably arise when there is a divorce.
The criticism of “no fault” divorce has been that it makes obtaining a divorce too easy. The reality is that under the present law divorces already take place even in situations where one party has to blame the other. It is doubtful whether the changes in law will increase the number of divorces but should change the atmosphere and surrounding attitude of the parties so that hopefully the key aspects of finances and children can also be dealt with in a more amicable manner.
At Clapham & Collinge we have supported the call for “no fault” divorce. As a member of Resolution and a collaborative lawyer, I believe that the change was long overdue and hope it will lead to greater collaboration and co-operation between divorcing couples.
If you need assistance or advice please contact Clapham & Collinge on: 01603 693 500. Branches: Norwich, Sheringham, North Walsham, firstname.lastname@example.org