No fault Divorces?
Contrary to the belief of some spouses, 120,000 of whom get divorced in England and Wales each year, it is still necessary to cite one of the following five reasons for the divorce; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion for two or more years, two years’ separation with consent; or five years’ separation without consent.
It is, perhaps, questionable whether, in England and Wales, we are somewhat lagging behind many parts of the rest of the world in respect of the introduction of no-fault divorces.
Russia was the first country to enact no-fault divorce in 1918, which was introduced by the Bolshevik’s following the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The most well-known no-fault divorce law was enacted in the state of California, signed by Governor Ronald Reagan (prior to him becoming President of the United States) and came into effect on 1st January 1970. No-fault divorce has been available in all of the United States of America and the District of Columbia since at least 1985.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, Britain’s most senior female judge, has indicated in an interview with The Times newspaper on 9th April 2015 that “The country’s divorce laws should be overhauled to remove the need for allegations of adultery and blame”. She also said that “she wanted to see the acrimony taken out of most matrimonial disputes with divorces granted without a person being held at fault.”
Baroness Hale first proposed no-fault divorces be introduced approximately two decades ago, but her proposals were obviously not implemented at that time.
However, before anyone starts to think the new proposals may make divorce easier, it needs to be borne in mind that Baroness Hale is suggesting lengthening the time to get a divorce, with a one year cooling-off period in which divorcing couples can sort out property, financial issues and arrangements for any children.
Arguments for no-fault divorce
Research has shown that domestic violence and female suicide decline when no-fault divorce is legalised.
Divorce can be an extremely stressful process for separating couples in any event, without the need for one party or the other to apportion blame in order for the Court to approve the divorce petition.
Under the current system, in which a reason has to be cited for the divorce, this can lead to a great increase in unnecessary acrimony between the parties which, in turn, can make it much more difficult to agree arrangements in relation to any children and/or financial matters which require resolution.