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27 April 2015

Campaign for “blame-free” divorce

The current divorce law in England and Wales dates back to 1973. The system demands that in order for a party to bring a divorce, the only ground is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which has to be based upon one of five facts. Unfortunately, unless a couple have been living apart for two years, one of them has to apportion some form of blame, adultery or unreasonable behaviour in order to divorce.

Recently there have been various calls, including from Baroness Hale, a senior family judge, to change divorce law and bring about “no fault” divorce.

No fault divorce is among sweeping changes proposed in a manifesto which has been presented by Resolution, an organisation representing 6,500 family lawyers and other family law professionals.  The manifesto identified six “key areas” where changes are needed to our family justice system, including the introduction of no-fault divorce and “basic legal rights” for cohabitees.

Emma Alfieri, family practitioner at Steeles Law commented:

“During the 42 years since the existing divorce law was made, there have been many obvious social changes and divorce is no longer viewed in the same way that it was in the 1970s.  Therefore, whilst divorce is now more socially acceptable, the way in which to go about obtaining a divorce remains the same.  It seems rather unfair that today’s modern families still have to follow the same old fashioned divorce law.  Times have changed significantly in the interim, yet one party still has to be “to blame” for the breakdown of the marriage.

It is clear that current divorce law causes additional conflict between divorcing parties.  For example, often the circumstances dictate that the only way to obtain a divorce is for one party to cite examples of the other party’s unreasonable behaviour.  Although, as family lawyers, we always do what we can to reduce the conflict caused by an outdated system, this is an example of how the current law only serves to makes matters more stressful and makes reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on any issue much more difficult.

Over the course of the past few years, there has been a real drive towards dealing with divorce in a non-adversarial manner and in encouraging parties to attend mediation.  Unfortunately, our divorce law does little to assist that process.  The answer is to reform existing law and bring about a more modern and blame free divorce process.”