UK To Undertake New Research on “No Fault” Divorce

by Michelle McDermott on November 24, 2016

Michelle McDermott

Resolution, is a UK Organisation of approximately 6,500 members of family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. Members encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family and in particular the best interests of children. I was a member of Resolution during my time practising family law in London.

In what I see as a huge step forward in finally getting rid of ‘no fault’ divorce in the UK, Resolution has invited its members to take part in a major two-year study exploring how the current law in the UK on the ground for divorce and divil partnership dissolution operates in practice. The research project is being conducted by the University of Exeter and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Earlier this year, ‘divorce without blame’ was one of the six key issued raised in the Resolution Manifesto. Whilst in Australia you only need to show that a marriage has irretrievably broken down, evidenced by 12 months’ separation, to apply for a divorce; in the UK you can apply for a divorce the day after separation based on the other party’s adultery or ‘unreasonable behaviour’. In my mind, one party apportioning blame against the other at a time when the parties are already going through a gammit of emotions, is wholly detrimental to the parties being able to resolve the issues following their separation in an amicable manner. More importantly, such hostility only makes matters worse for any children involved.

I must point out that you can apply for a divorce in the UK without blaming the other party. A party can apply after two years’ separation with the other party’s consent or a party can apply after five years’ separation without the other party’s consent. However, given that you must apply for a divorce first in order to be able to resolve a financial settlement (unlike in Australia), the reality is that most people apply for a divorce well before the two year deadline so that financial matters can be resolved.

There are three stages of the proposed research – a Public attitudes survey designed to explore attitudes of a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults and 1,000 recently divorced adults; a Court Scrutiny Study designed to explore what the duty of the Court is to eqnuire, so far as it reasonably can, into the facts alleged and a Produce a petition study which explore how petitions are produced and with what effect on the parties.

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