In many of the divorce cases Slater and Gordon deal with, our clients and their ex-partners are keen for matters to remain as amicable as possible when embarking on divorce or dissolution proceedings.
Unfortunately, the current legal system we have in England and Wales can prevent matters starting off on the right foot.
This is because, in order to commence proceedings, many of our clients are forced to cite their partner’s unreasonable behaviour or adultery. This can lead to lengthy arguments over the content of the divorce papers despite both people agreeing that they want to dissolve their marriage or civil partnership.
I hope this situation, which can be costly for people wanting a quick divorce, will soon be a thing of the past.
The No Fault Divorce Bill was introduced to Parliament on 13 October 2015 and is due to have its second reading debate on the 4 December 2015. If the Bill becomes law, a marriage or civil partnership could be ended on the basis that the relationship has irretrievably broken down without relying on any other facts. Both people would have to agree that the dissolution of the marriage or civil partnership is no-one’s fault.
The proposal includes a “12-month period for reflection and consideration”. Many supporters of ‘no fault divorce’ believe it does not go far enough and question why a 12-month period of reflection is required. Divorces on the basis of unreasonable behaviour or adultery do not have a period of reflection attached to them.
Family law campaigners Resolution have recommended that the new divorce procedure should be based upon one or both partners giving notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Then, if after a period of six months either or both people wish to complete the divorce, proceedings will go on.
A move towards ‘no fault divorce’ is a change to the law I would welcome. There is no longer the stigma attached to divorce, that there once was, and I hope the law will change to reflect this.
Patricia Robinson is a Family Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.