Luckily, no one has to take blame now with the update in divorce proceedings. The introduction of ‘no fault divorce’ means that couples can bring divorce proceedings without attributing the blame to ‘unreasonable behaviors’ including adultery or abandonment, or a separation from 2-5 years. Now those living in England and Wales can terminate a marriage after just 6 months.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act came into play on 6 April 2022. The legislation allows one of both spouses to start proceedings for a ‘no fault’ divorce in situations when the marriage has broken down to a point of no return.
The update has been welcomed with mixed feelings, there is worry for some individuals, especially amongst those who could be vulnerable or victimized by their spouse as it gives a quick exit from a potentially dangerous or toxic environment. On the other hand, the new framework means that any spouse who has experienced an abusive relationship will lose their freedom to claim unjust treatment by their spouse if they are served with no fault divorce papers.
The changes have been met with much positivity, with some campaigners complaining that the previous fault-based proceeding were revengeful, and sometimes real indignity needed to be bought to justice.
This update means that it is legal to abandon a marriage quickly without apportioning blame to anything or rather anyone. In light of this, many are questioning the ethical issues this ‘no fault’ clause introduces. Campaigners fear it could be used as a weapon in toxic marriages.
In reality, no fault divorce can put spouses in extremely difficult positions, for example those with health or financial issues could be forced into a difficult position should their spouse request a ‘no fault’ divorce. The same difficulties could be faced by a wife who has given up working to raise the children, as it gets rid of any security that marriage previously gave. Many are claiming that this is in fact a step backwards, as marriage has now been degraded to a contract that gives less stability than a rental agreement. It leaves spouses with little legal protection, and paints marriage in a similar light to cohabitation.
It could be argued that the introduction of the no fault measure could have aimed to alleviate some of the pain of divorce proceedings, however that just is not the case with most marital breakdowns. The changes certainly do not make the emotional turmoil any easier, so why have the changes been executed for this reason? Is divorce now too easy?
The President of the Law Society, Stephanie Boyce was ‘delighted’ with the new changes, and believed they ‘will finally be modernized to reflect the society we live in’. Divorce law has not changed for over 50 years, despite campaigning efforts from organizations such as Resolution, who have been pushing for an update since 1980. Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution shared that the news was significant for the organization, and a real milestone marking everything they have been pushing for.
There are predictions that with the introduction of the ‘no fault’ proceedings, it could push couples who may have been previously considering a divorce to start proceedings. Similar reactions occurred when Scotland changed their law in 2006 to a ‘no fault’ system, which spurred an influx in divorce proceedings.
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