The biggest shake-up in divorce law in England and Wales for over 50 years, designed to end the blame game, has been welcomed by a leading lawyer.
The Bill to introduce 'no-fault' divorce in England and Wales has been backed by the House of Lords following a vote of 231-16 and is now waiting to become law.
Under this proposed new ruling, it will only be necessary to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and not to apportion blame to either person, with the process being reduced to 26 weeks.
The ‘no-fault’ divorce means it will no longer be contested by either side which is hoped will reduce the hostility and acrimony involved particularly for those with children.
Dal Heran, Partner at top Midlands law firm Wright Hassall, said this was welcome news but it wouldn’t affect the business interests of either the husband or wife, as the financial matters will still need to be dealt with separately.
She said: “What is changing is how couples are able to divorce. At the moment, if a couple is divorcing, there has to be a fault proved, usually of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. If they are not able to use either of these reasons, then they may have to wait for five years before starting a divorce.
“It is expected that the new Act could be passed at some point this year which will mean that there will be no requirement to blame the other person for the breakdown of the marriage, it will simply be a requirement to say that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
“But the major change is that the other spouse can’t contest the divorce. Currently, a spouse can contest a divorce but that element is going to be abolished which in most cases will be an enormous relief for those spouses who want to escape an unhappy marriage. In reality, only two per cent of cases are contested.
“The divorce process will take 26 weeks which will give time to deal with any finances. The timeframe is intended to allow the Applicant to reflect upon the decision to divorce.
“It is going to help those people who can’t get a divorce because they fear that their spouse might contest it, and those people who have simply fallen out of love but do not want to become embroiled in an argument over whose fault it is by having to claim unreasonable behaviour or adultery by the other party. Couples will also be able to make a joint application for a divorce. The Applicant(s) will be required to provide a statement confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
“Instead of having to wait two or even five years, they can now end their marriage in 26 weeks and move on with their lives which can be particularly helpful when children are involved.”