The No Fault Divorce Bill, sponsored by Richard Bacon MP and supported by many Family Lawyers, proposes a substantial change in the law relating to Divorce. If approved by Parliament it will mean that a couple will finally be able to get divorced without having to wait two years or having to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage. This is seen by most as a very positive change in the law.
Currently a couple wishing to get divorced must either wait until they have been separated for two years, or cite the other person’s Adultery or Unreasonable Behaviour as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Some separating couples do not wish to wait two years before they are able to finalise their separation and, although a Family Lawyer can draw up a Legal Separation Agreement to deal with the property and finances pending a Divorce, this may not always be appropriate. Also, the parties would still have to go through the Divorce process at some stage.
As such many couples feel they have no alternative than to base their Divorce on Adultery or Unreasonable Behaviour even where they may both agree to a Divorce. These types of Divorce are sometimes referred to as ‘Fault Based’ Divorces and can be hugely damaging to the prospects of dealing amicably and productively with the other issues arising from the separation, such as the arrangements for children and dividing-up of the property and finances.
Whilst most Family Lawyers will attempt to deal with even a Fault Based Divorce as amicably as possible, it is still the case that apportioning blame can set the parties off on a negative footing in a process where the Divorce itself is just the first in a number of matters which need to be resolved between the parties.
The No Fault Divorce Bill was due to have its second reading in Parliament on the 11th March however it was not high enough on the Order Paper to be debated. It will now have to wait until the next session of Parliament, due to commence on the 18th May, before it is debated. Concerned by this set-back, the Chair of ‘Resolution’, an organisation of 6,500 Family Lawyers (including the Family Lawyers at Hegarty LLP), wrote to the Prime Minister on the 17th March to request a commitment in the upcoming Queen’s Speech to introduce legislation to enable a No Fault Divorce.