No Fault Divorce Bill to receive second reading in January 2016
The No Fault Divorce Bill is to receive a second reading on 22nd January 2016.
At present, under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA), irretrievable breakdown is the sole ground for a divorce and the following 5 facts constitute reasons for irretrievable breakdown:
- The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
- The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent (unreasonable behaviour);
- The respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
- The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to a decree being granted;
- The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
Recent research published by Resolution shows that the fault-based nature of divorce in England and Wales, which requires one person to accuse the other of adultery or unreasonable behaviour to have their divorce granted within two years of marriage breakdown, is driving over a quarter (27%) of divorcing couples to make false allegations to the court.
The Bill, which is a private member’s bill, proposes that MCA be amended by inserting a new fact – Divorce on breakdown of marriage: joint petition. Each party will be required to affix to the joint petition a statement confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In the majority of instances the parties will then have to wait for 12 months after the decree nisi has been pronounced before the divorce is made final.
This will slightly shorten the time from the current two years separation for a divorce, where parties are unable to issue on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour, but not as much as had been hoped by many.
A similar amendment is proposed to the Civil Partnership Act 2004
Updates as to the progress of the Bill will be posted in due course.