Under current legislation, you are required to prove to a court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down in order to be granted a divorce. You can establish this using one of 5 facts:
2. Unreasonable behaviour
4. Separation for 2 years with consent
5. Separation for 5 years
Of the above options, numbers 1,2 and 3 all require the petitioner to prove that their husband/wife is at fault in some way. However, in circumstances where couples separate amicably, the only grounds which do not require the passing of blame are numbers 4 and 5.
This means that couples have to wait a minimum of 2 years (from the point they agree that their marriage is over) before they can apply for a divorce.
In English law there is no such thing as a ‘No Fault Divorce’. Couples who do not wish to wait 2 years for a divorce are therefore required to choose between adultery and unreasonable behaviour in order to prove to a court that their marriage has broken down.
According to the Office of National statistics, in 2017 unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds. However, this requires a petitioner in divorce to essentially list things the other party did during the marriage which they considered to be unreasonable.
In situations where there are finances to be resolved, or children to think of, it can be unhelpful to bring unnecessary conflict into the proceedings. Couples would be better off focusing on these important issues without the animosity that a fault-based divorce can entail.
In September 2018 the Ministry of Justice issued a consultation on its plans to reform the divorce process, to remove the concept of ‘fault’.
If the reform takes place, the five facts listed above would be removed. Instead, one party would simply need to notify the court that their marriage has broken down. It would also be possible for couples to give notice jointly.
However, until the law is changed we would recommend you use solicitors to help you petition for divorce as we can help you keep the process as simple and non-confrontational as possible. We can keep examples of unreasonable behaviour to a minimum, whilst at the same time ensuring there are no hitches in obtaining your divorce as painlessly and as quickly as possible. We offer a fixed fee divorce.
If you are currently experiencing a relationship breakdown and would like advice on divorce, finances or children matters, please contact a member of our Family team at Neves. We offer consultations for up to one hour on a fixed fee basis and we would be happy to advise you.