The problem with the blame game
The issue of placing fault or blame in a divorce was brought to national prominence in 2018 by the Owens v Owens case. The Supreme Court was forced to reject the wife’s appeal for divorce following her husband refusing to take part in proceedings.
Why? His behaviour wasn’t unreasonable enough. That meant she would have to wait another two years to apply for divorce on the grounds of five years’ separation.
Following the rejection, there were calls for a full reform to end the long and acrimonious process. A public consultation followed, in which expert divorce professionals
and those with direct experience of separation voiced their support for reform.
In April 2020, the Government announced plans to introduce new legislation to the divorce reform act that will look to end the blame culture surrounding divorce law. Once this new legislation has been passed, ministers hope that it will dramatically reduce family conflict and make for a much more amicable process for divorcing spouses.
What are the changes?
The current law demands proof that a marriage has broken down, forcing spouses to provide evidence of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, such as adultery, desertion or years of separation, even in cases where the couple have both made a mutual decision to part ways.
The new proceedings would replace the need to prove this behaviour with a simple statement confirming the irretrievable collapse of the marriage.
Almost 100,000 couples divorce in England and Wales each year and the most common fact relied on by couples in their petitions is unreasonable behaviour. However, a recent UK wide survey from ComRes in 2015 shows only 29% of respondents to a fault divorce said that the fact used closely resembled the actual reason for separation.
Introducing a simple method for a no-fault divorce should enable the parties involved to concentrate on more important issues following a separation, such as the arrangements for the children and how to resolve the marital finances.
The proposed reforms also include a mandatory timeframe of 6 months for divorce to be granted to allow for a period of reflection and better future planning. This will cut the time it currently takes to during no blame divorce cases by at least 18 months.
When will it become law?
The new legislation will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows. When introduced, it will update the current 50-year-old divorce reform act by looking to resolve difficulties in divorce more amicably and with a smaller emotional fallout.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and Brexit still dominating the headlines, this may take longer than initially expected, but many expert family lawyers are welcoming the overdue change to end the blame game.
Assistance with your divorce
Whether it’s a no blame divorce or there’s clear unreasonable behaviour, Osbourne Pinner can provide the expertise you require to get things sorted. We’ll guide you throughout the entire process, from grounds for divorce through to settlement and custody, working to support you in securing the best outcome.