The law governing divorce in England and Wales still requires there to be an element of fault unless the parties have been separated two years and agree that there should be a divorce, they have been separated five years and there would be no undue financial hardship or one party has effectively disappeared. If none of those circumstances apply then there has to be an element of blame apportioned to one party to enable the divorce to proceed.
As far back as the 1960’s belief among legislators and those working within family law has been that this is an outdated approach, particularly when the Court places no reliance (except in very exceptional cases) on the reasons for the marriage breakdown when considering arrangements for the parties children or considering how their assets should be divided.
Resolution, the national organisation committed to non confrontational divorce are delighted that the Nuffield Foundation has agreed to fund a two year study exploring how the current law on the grounds for divorce and civil partnership dissolution operates in practice and to generate debate as to how and whether the law should be reformed.
One of the key philosophies of Resolution, and the hundreds of family lawyers who are members of the organisation, is to resolve issues arising from relationship breakdown with the least amount of conflict, in particular for the children who may be involved within the separation and to lessen the worry and anxiety for them as well as the parties involved. This study is to be welcomed in the hope that it may lead to a change in the current law where it is felt that by having to apportion blame at an early stage of separation leads to unnecessary hostility which could easily be avoided and adds to parental conflict which has a detrimental effect on the children.
The study will commence in October 2015 and will consist of three main elements. The first will be a public attitudes survey to look at a sample of adults and recently divorced adults to obtain a feel for the public’s view.
The second stage will look at how the Court investigates petitions alleging adultery or unreasonable behaviour and the third stage will explore how petitions are produced and the effect on the parties.
The research may take up to two years to complete but if its results lead to a change in the current law, which means that parties no longer have to apportion blame and can concentrate on attempting to resolve the primary issues of separation in a more amicable and trustworthy setting, then that is likely to lead to less traumatic separations and a more civilised approach to resolving the issues.