Our law is old(ish) – 1973. There is one ground for divorce (irretrievable breakdown of marriage) but you have to go on and state a reason from one of five permitted categories to get a divorce. Can’t find a good ‘fit’ for you in one of the five categories? Can’t get divorced.
Most divorce petitions use the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ grounds. Those could be ‘big’ things like violence in the home, drug taking, alcoholism and so on but often they are a build-up of the little things. This is what family lawyers like me are complaining about. A couple who want to divorce are often left with the unenviable option of having to hash over the who-did-what-to-whom in divorce proceedings when all that does is stir up feelings of anger and upset. Those feelings then roll over into trying to sort out arrangements for children and the financial situation, and, hey presto! You have a bubbling cauldron of emotion and upset which is no pleasant experience for anyone.
Why does it matter? Well, because you are grown adults who are able to decide whether a marriage will work or not and my view is that you should not have to justify your decision to the Court or the State. The competing view here is that we are a Church of England country, marriage should mean something and it should not become ‘disposable’. All of which is understand. I would say the process still will not be ‘easy’. A new no fault process would just mean removing the need to ‘point the finger of blame’
The vast majority of my fellow family lawyers feel the same. We’ve been campaigning for a long time for no fault divorce. What that means is that if you want to be divorced, you would simply apply to the Court for a divorce, make sure the other person knows (and they can get involved if they want to) then once the waiting period is passed (to be sure you want to be divorced and to give a chance for the finances to be sorted out) then you confirm you want to be divorced still (no change of heart) and that is that.
Parliament is slow on this issue. I know they are busy with Brexit but they have had more than enough time to deal with the issue. It was on the statute books and then withdrawn. In the meantime, families go through this difficult journey where the procedure does not help.
Dame Butler-Sloss, a former President (or ‘head judge’) of the Family Court has introduced a Bill into the House of Lords asking the government essentially to look at this issue again. The Bill sets out a really sensible, clear suggestion for an alternative process for divorce, the basis of which is to do away with the need to ‘point the finger of blame’. We’ve also got a big decision coming from the Supreme Court on Wednesday 25 July 2018. Now, the Court cannot change the law but it does give a strong indication to the government of what the Court thinks the government needs to do.
Fingers crossed, we get some attention to this difficult issue. If you are going through divorce proceedings or thinking of getting divorced, contact us. We can speak to you briefly initially and then arrange for a more indepth conversation, with no obligation to move forward until YOU are ready.