On 13 October 2015 the Conservative MP for South Norfolk Mr. Richard Bacon introduced a new bill in Parliament calling for an amendment to divorce legislation to allow ‘no fault divorces’ where couples agree and sign a declaration that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. England and Wales does not operate a no fault divorce system at present. This is unusual compared to many other divorce jurisdictions around the world. Under the current law, in order to obtain a divorce you have to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and this has to be evidenced by one of the five facts set out in legislation, namely:
- Adultery – which your spouse must admit to.
- Unreasonable behaviour- where you have to cite 5-6 examples of such behaviour that has taken place during the marriage. This is the most common fact that divorcing couples rely on as there is no time limit the parties have to wait to issue proceedings. However, it is not difficult to see that this fact adds a lot of tension and animosity to the an already difficult time as one party lays blame on the other for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
- 2 years separation – which you spouse must consent to
- 5 years separation
Mr. Bacon’s suggested amendment would allow couples to sign declarations confirming that they both agree their marriage has irretrievably broken down and for the divorce to proceed on a “no fault basis” however, the proposal also includes a “12-month period for reflection and consideration”. Where the parties would have to wait a minimum of 12 months prior to bringing a petition without fault. The no fault fact would not replace any of the existing facts it will merely be an additional one. Mr. Bacon’s bill has divided opinion. Supporters of a move towards a no fault based divorce system include Sir James Munby, president of the High Court Family Division. However, it has come under strong criticism even from fellow MPs within Mr. Bacons own party. Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh raised concerns that such an amendment would make the process easier and increase the number of divorces in England and Wales. The proposal it still at an early stage. The second reading was to take place on 4th December 2015 however this was postponed to 22 January 2016. This will include full debate at the end of which the house of commons will vote on the bill. If successful at second reading the bill will pass to committee stage, then the report stage, and a third reading debated in the House of Lords. If passed by both houses the Bill will become law once it has been given Royal Assent. This is most definitely something I will be watching carefully for, to see what the outcome will be.
If you find yourself in a position where you would like to discuss separation options, please feel free to contact one of our family law team members on 01604 828 282 for a confidential conversation.