Will the ‘blame game’ ever end?

Posted 06 January 2017 by Dawn Pennell

Will the ‘blame game’ ever end?  Dawn Pennell of Capron & Helliwell solicitors considers the possibility of the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce.

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember Baroness Hale first introducing the concept of a ‘no-fault’ style divorce some twenty or so years ago.  I attended training for the anticipated changes but, in the event, it did not make it on to the Statute book with MPs rejecting the idea.

On 13th October last year the MP Richard Bacon put forward a motion to Parliament which shines the spotlight on this area of law once again.

As the law currently stands the only ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage evidenced by one of five ‘facts’ including adultery or behaviour unless the couple have been separated for at least two years. 

In research carried out by YouGov in June 2015 they found that 52% of divorce petitions were fault-based alleging either adultery or behaviour with 27% of those divorcing couples asserting blame in their divorce petitions admitted the fault allegation was not the real reason that the marriage had broken down but it was the easiest option available to them.  There is no recognition that couples sometimes simply drift apart as the years pass or find that they fall out of love with one another. 

Richard Bacon’s proposal is that a sixth ‘fact’ should be added in order to evidence irretrievable breakdown of the marriage that both parties to the marriage separately sign a declaration that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  Such a declaration would satisfy the court without the need to show any other facts.  There would be a cooling-off period of one year before the decree of divorce could be made absolute which would give the couple time to reflect on whether a divorce is really what they want.

Would a ‘no-fault’ divorce could undermine the institution of marriage by making it too easy for couples to split and divorce? Do some people still want to be able to record that their spouse is responsible for their marriage breaking down? Will others welcome a change allowing couples who are no longer compatible to divorce with dignity recognising that, in many cases, there is nobody to blame allowing couples to move more easily forward following a divorce which is especially important when children are involved.

So … what will happen?  We will have to wait and see as the second reading debate of Richard Bacon’s motion has been delayed.  Most recently it came before Parliament on 11th March this year which was the third attempt to have a second reading debate.  The Bill has not yet been high enough on the Order Paper to be debated by MPs.

Dawn Pennell is a Chartered Legal Executive and Collaborative Lawyer dealing with family law matters at Capron & Helliwell, solicitors, who have offices in Stalham and Wroxham.

Capron & Helliwell hold free family law clinics – for details or to book an appointment please contact Tina Phillippo on 01692-581231 or email her at t.phillippo@capronandhelliwell.co.uk 

This article aims to supply general information but it is not intended to constitute advice.  Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead.  However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy.  Always seek specific advice. 

Capron & Helliwell Solicitors offer a range of legal services at the firm’s Stalham and Wroxham offices near North Walsham and Norwich in Norfolk. The firm specialises in areas including family law, conveyancing and private client law including wills and probate. Capron & Helliwell Solicitors offer free family law clinics – please call 01692 581231 for further details or to make an appointment.

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