Pointing the Finger - the need for 'No Fault' Divorce

Posted by Catherine Morgan on

It is estimated that there are 118,000 divorces in England and Wales each year, with more than half of those divorces based on the petitioning spouse citing their husband or wife's adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

However, it has come to light after studies by Resolution, the Family Lawyers' organisation promoting constructive and non-confrontational practice, that divorcing couples are under pressure to point the finger and to find reasons to divorce the other party, to stop them having to wait two years to issue proceedings on a more amicable basis.

Resolution's studies have shown that approximately one quarter of divorces brought by petitioners based upon the respondent's unreasonable behaviour include claims have been exaggerated or claims that the respondent does not believe to be true, as a means to an end.

Often it is impractical (or could harm a client's position in some cases) to wait for two years to fully resolve the financial issues and so, having made the decision to divorce – which can often be a mutual decision – the parties are left with the choice of who shall get the blame. To simply say that you have both grown apart or to give a balanced account of both parties' behaviour is not sufficient.

It is concerning in itself, that parties are lured into misleading the Court, although there is also the practical problem that many divorcing couples will start this process (which can last between 6 to 12 months in many cases) with a bitter taste in their mouths, having been painted the villain. This seems to be needlessly inflammatory and flies in the face of the constructive and non-confrontational approach that many family lawyers and even the courts promote to clients tackling the wider issues in family law, such as the children's arrangements and the division of the parties' finances.

Why not instead allow an additional fact to prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, so that the parties may start as they mean to go on and simply confirm that their relationship has irretrievably broken down? It is heartening that 'no fault divorce' is being given serious consideration by the government and practitioners eagerly await the "Finding Fault? Divorce in practice in England and Wales" project, recently announced.

About the Author

Photograph of Catherine Morgan

Catherine is a Family Law solicitor and a Resolution accredited specialist, she advises clients in divorce/civil partnership proceedings, financial remedy negotiations and in private law Children Act matters, as well as Cohabitants' disputes and in drafting Deeds of Cohabitation and Pre-Nuptial/Post-Nuptial Agreements.

Catherine Morgan
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