Days of divorce blame game numbered

27/01/2020
Author: Donna Leigh

Attempts to introduce no fault divorces have taken a step closer.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which is regarded as the biggest shake up of the family law system in the last 50 years, was reintroduced to Parliament on the 7th January.

It is envisaged that it will help limit the impact allegations of blame has on divorcing couples and especially children.

Under the current system, separating couples have to attribute a conduct or separation ‘fact’ in the form of blame to one of the parties. Culpability falls under two categories: adultery and what is commonly known as unreasonable behaviour. Alternatively, they can separate for a number of years before the divorce is granted.

No fault divorce aims to remove the allocation of blame by allowing one or both parties to enter a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The move also prevents divorce proceedings being dragged out if one partner wants the application to go through, while the other wishes to remain in the marriage.

The Bill was first proposed in June last year following a public consultation. One of the most important elements of it will be a 20 week period of reflection, providing couples with the opportunity to have a change of heart and seek support, such as counselling and mediation. If the intention is to go ahead anyway, the break enables couples to make practical arrangements for their futures.

Divorce solicitor, and partner at Russell & Russell, Donna Leigh says: “The institution of marriage is sacrosanct, but it’s important to ensure it keeps up with the times. The proposals will bring divorce law in line with the government’s approach to family justice to avoid confrontation wherever possible.

“The reforms will help alleviate the emotional burden on divorcing couples having to blame each other in order to legally part company. It’s especially important to protect any children involved from conflict and couples can forge a new relationship to co parent.”

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