There is only really one ‘ground’ for divorce, and this is the irrevocable breakdown of a marriage. But there are a number of different factors that can get you to this point.
In current marriage law, for a divorce to be heard by a court, one party has to be at fault.
The majority of marriages end due to something referred to as “unreasonable behaviour” which can include anything from infidelity to domestic abuse. Spouses can also petition for divorce due to adultery or desertion. After 2 years apart, couples can divorce if they both consent to it. And after 5 years apart, one spouse can petition for divorce without consent from their partner.
In almost all cases, one party has to be at fault for the divorce to be granted. But this could all be set to change in 2020.
For the first time, no-fault divorces could be granted, allowing couples to agree to divorce and part ways more amicably. This would be the first shakeup of divorce law since the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
What is a no-fault divorce?
A no-fault divorce could be used by couples who want to part ways amicably. Instead of forcing one party to admit fault, the no-fault divorces would grant a divorce provided both parties consent. Supporters of the no-fault divorce say that it would help parents to move towards co-parenting without creating a toxic relationship. Critics say that it would devalue the meaning of marriage.
How will a no-fault divorce work?
The actual process will remain the same. The grounds for divorce will still be the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, but there will no longer be the need to establish who is at fault. This removes the possibility of a divorce being contested in court since one party will be able to state that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
It will also remove the need for couples to be separated for more than 5 years before the marriage can be ended without consent from the other party.
It is thought that a no-fault divorce will make it easier for parents to separate without allowing the relationship to become toxic. Children are often the biggest losers in a divorce, but the arrival of the no-fault divorce could allow parents to move to co-parenting without lingering feelings of animosity and resentment.
To prevent couples from making any rash decisions, there will be a 20-week cooling-off period, so the divorce process won’t be any quicker. Couples will be able to manage their divorce petition, or they will be able to seek specialist help from a divorce solicitor.
Will the no-fault divorce be available in 2020?
The specifics are still being ironed out on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. If you are delaying your petition for divorce in the hope of being one of the first to make use of a no-blame divorce, you could be in for a wait. The Justice Secretary stated in 2019 that the bill would be pushed through the House of Commons “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”. However, with political unrest due to Brexit and now the Covid-19 outbreak, it isn’t clear when this will be.
What do the critics say?
Religious groups are by far the most outspoken critics of the no-fault divorce bill. Some groups believe that it would devalue marriage by making it too easy to obtain a divorce. Since many groups believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment, a no-fault divorce could be seen as a shortcut to divorce.
It’s important to remember that the no-fault divorce bill is the result of public consultation and could be said to reflect the changing attitudes towards marriage.