The Times has reported that the Justice Minister has indicated a commitment to put a bill before Parliament to introduce ‘no-fault divorce’ “sometime after May this year”.
Presently, the grounds for divorce (and for dissolution of a civil partnership) are essentially as set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
The Family Law Act 1996 introduced a new system for divorce which involved a general statement of breakdown and without having to set out what we tend to think of as “grounds” for divorce but ultimately that provision was not put into effect and was later appealed.
It is arguable that having to ‘shoehorn’ the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage into the five available choices (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion for two years, separation for two years when both parties consent to the divorce and finally separation for five years is an unnecessary constraint and when the periods of separation are not available, and if there is no suggestion of infidelity, then anyone wishing to start proceedings is compelled to put together details of the other person’s unreasonable behaviour.
This can involve racking up matters which are not currently an issue between the spouses giving significance with hindsight, to something which perhaps not at the time is seen as the reason for the end of the marriage.
Sometimes, of course, there is very serious “unreasonable behaviour” whether it consists of violent or intimidating behaviour or drug and alcohol abuse, but there are sometimes situations where the particulars of the petition suggest that there has been something of a struggle to put together a convincing narrative.
This can often only serve to cause unnecessary friction between the parties and to distract them from the major issues of sorting out property and finances and the arrangements for children.