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Half believe that "no-fault" option will speed up divorce process

Date:28 MAY 2019
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A recent survey suggests that half of people in England & Wales believe that a “no-fault” divorce option will shorten the current divorce process, with almost a third thinking it will lead to fewer arguments.

The survey conducted by Graysons Solicitors found that almost a quarter of people think divorce will be made cheaper by the move, while almost one in five believe it will lead to an increase in the number of divorces.

The term “no-fault divorce” refers to a situation where neither spouse has to claim on the divorce petition that the separation is the “fault” of the other.

Under the current law in England and Wales, if either party does not agree to the divorce, evidence must be provided to show the spouse is at fault through adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion.

Otherwise, applicants must remain married until they have lived apart from their partner for either two years and divorce by consent or, for five years.

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The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has vowed to introduce the legislation for no-fault divorce as soon as parliamentary time becomes available in a bid to end the so-called ‘blame game’ between couples. The proposed changes will also apply to same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.

The demand for change peaked in July last year when Tini Owens, 68, lost her Supreme Court appeal to divorce her husband of 40 years, Hugh Owens, on the grounds she was unhappy.  

As Mr Owens challenged the split, and the couple have been separated since 2015, she will have to remain married until 2020. A no-fault system would remove a partner’s ability to contest a divorce.

In the recent study, 31% of people thought the introduction of a no-fault divorce would lead to fewer arguments as, whilst it would still require couples to state that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, “blame” would not be required.

Life empowerment coach Elaine Mitchell said:

“I think there’s always going to be some arguments and conflict involved in divorce. But, without assigning blame to either party, you aren’t going to introduce resentment into the equation.
I think it will prevent the stigma that being divorced has to be someone’s fault or someone has to have behaved badly.”

Research by UCL’s Institute of Education indicates that children of divorce can be at risk of developing particular emotional, social and behavioural issues that can persist or first appear years after the marital rupture.

Over a quarter of people (27.7%) who answered Graysons’ survey believed that having no-fault as an option would benefit children of those divorcing.

Elaine added:

“I think it would help children. From my experience, a lot of people use their children as bait and weapons in fault divorces.
It’s important to have age-appropriate and honest conversations with children about divorce. Let them know they are totally loved, and both parents will still be very much in their lives. The no-fault aspect can only enhance that.”

While 50% of people who took part in Graysons Solicitors’ survey believe that no-fault divorces will speed up the divorce, 24% of people also think it will make divorce cheaper.

Bradie Pell, partner and head of the family team at Graysons Solicitors says:

“Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which is the law relating to divorce, if both spouses agree to a divorce, and do not want to cite “fault”, they need to have lived separately for two years.
However, under proposals, a no-fault divorce would establish a minimum period of six months for couples to ‘reflect’, before the marriage is dissolved. Couples do need to be aware, however, that it is very unlikely that issues relating to finances and children will be resolved within six months.”

However, there is some debate as to whether the move will weaken the institution of marriage itself. The survey results reflect this, with 18.1% of people claiming no-fault divorces would lead to more divorces and 16% believe it will harm the institution of marriage.