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No-fault divorce: When will the blame game end?

With more than half of relationships breaking down, the Courts are witnessing a rise in the number of divorces. Recent debate on this topic has suggested that our current divorce laws are out of touch, in that they do not reflect the values of today’s society and only exacerbate an already emotionally heightened time in a relationship.

This is because at present, the law only enables an individual to petition for a divorce if one (or more) of five facts are satisfied

1. Adultery
2. Behaviour.

Three of the facts relate to the time for which the couple have been separated
3. Two years desertion
4. Two years separation if both parties consent
5. Five years separation without the other party’s consent.

The political agenda is littered with attempts to change this. Part 2 of the Family Law Act 1996 would have given no-fault divorces a statutory footing, which would have paved way for a more amicable and practical process some ten years ago. This never came to pass as Part 2 was repealed. More recently, a further strive to remove the mandatory blaming was attempted through the No Fault Divorce Bill, which was introduced by Richard Bacon MP. If passed, this bill would have enabled two parties to divorce solely on the basis of written consent. This practical and modern requirement could have promoted a more welfare centred approach in cases where children are involved, as it is doubtful that having to blame one party for the breakdown of a marriage fosters an open and collaborative communications between separated parents in respect of arrangements for children.

The more topical matters in the current political climate seem to have side-lined any prospect of forthcoming legislative change. Given recent research indicating that one quarter of divorce petitions are embellished in order to attribute blame so as to be able to pursue unreasonable behaviour , it is maybe time for this to be explored in more detail.

The aspect of blaming one party for a martial breakdown is unnecessary and counter-productive. As Resolution’s Chair (Nigel Shepherd) puts it:

“It’s wrong – and actually bordering on cruel – to say to couples: If you want to move on with your lives… one of you has to blame the other… The blame game needs to end and it needs to end now ”

It can only be hoped through increased demands and campaigning that this seemingly outdated area of law will finally be reformed. Not only could this benefit separating spouses, but their children as well.

Thomas Brownrigg

Tom Trim

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