In recent years, the media has bombarded the public with newspaper and magazine articles about the less than amicable splits of public figures. These hostile partings lead to bitter divorces that play out, like a drama in solicitor’s office and court. In order to curb this habit of allowing the public to follow the intimate details of the end of a person’s marriage and to help reflect a more realistic and enlightened image of divorce, Richard Bacon MP’s private No Fault Divorce member bill seeks to introduce new grounds for separation and divorce based on the omission of blame.
Currently, if a couple wants to divorce, they must provide a reason. All of the current reasons for divorce carry an element of blame. The reasons are unreasonable behavior by one party, adultery, desertion and separation with or without consent. The time period for separation with consent is 2 year and 5 years without consent.
Typically, when one party initiates divorce proceedings, the other party is generally expected to agree. With a no-fault claim, there is no apportion of blame, which can lead to an increase in the number of amicable divorces. The No Fault Bill, if passed into law, will be added as the sixth reason for divorce.
With a no-fault divorce, both parties can initiate divorce proceedings, stating that there was an irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. The couple would be provided with a one-year period to consider their decision before a decree absolute is signed.
The No Fault Timeline
The first reading of the bill was on 13th October 2015. It was heard as part of the new ten-minute rule where the MP is allowed to argue their case for a change or provision. The bill was passed on the 4th December 2015 and will move on to the second reading.
If this bill is passed, it will mean a change in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and a new grounds for divorce will be inserted. Currently, the bill is in the initial stages. The second hearing was postponed from 22nd January to 11th March 2016. After the bill is debated, and if passed, corresponding amendments will be made regarding the dissolution of marriage under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
After the bill goes through the second reading, there will be three more hearings in the House of Commons and five in the House of Lords. Amendments will be given before the bill achieves Royal Assent. Since the second hearing has been delayed for more than six weeks, it is not likely that an amicable divorce without apportioned blame will be seen in the near future. However, the existence of this bill does offer a welcome and helpful change to modern divorce and family law.
In A Child’s Best Interest
The tradition of placing fault within a divorce does not just take a toll on the couple. This “tradition” also places a huge burden on the English legal system, in the form of costs, time, and resources. However, the people most impacted by this policy are the 100,000 children affected by divorce each year. A no-fault divorce can lessen the chance of children experiencing fall-out and disruption in their lives, due to lengthy divorce proceedings.
The emphasis needs to be placed on the welfare of the children of divorcing parents. Despite arguments suggesting that this bill will only make divorce easier and faster, others have stated that the current process of divorce can be unhelpful and even detrimental to the needs of the children affected by divorce.
If you want more information or advice about divorce and family law, contact one of our team members today.