Richard Bacon MP has recently proposed that divorce law should be changed to allow couples to divorce without one blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage.
As the law stands, there is only one ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. This is established by proving one of five facts to the court, which are:
- Adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent
- The Respondent has behaved in such a way that it is unreasonable to expect the Petitioner to live with him/her (commonly known as ‘unreasonable behaviour’)
- The Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a period of two years
- The Petitioner and the Respondent have been separated for a period of two years and the Respondent consents to a divorce
- The Petitioner and the Respondent have been separated for a period of five years (the Respondent need not consent).
As the law stands, the only ‘immediate’ facts available, i.e. where a Petitioner does not have to wait at least two years, are adultery and unreasonable behaviour. This creates a situation where one spouse must blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage, often in circumstances where they have mutually decided to separate, if they wish to divorce before they have been separated for at least two years.
So what can be done to separate as amicably as possible?
Unless and until there is an option of ‘no fault divorce’, it is advisable for the Petitioner to seek to agree the fact to be relied on with the Respondent, and where unreasonable behavior is to be used, to agree the examples of behaviour to be stated in the Petition to avoid unnecessarily inflaming the situation.
It is also advisable to consider resolving arrangements for any children of the marriage and the financial settlement in less adversarial ways, such as mediation or via solicitors.
If you would like to discuss your options on divorce, please do not hesitate to contact Karen Pritchard or another member of our Family Team on 01279 755777.