One of the first things I say to any new divorce client is that I have a pen to write with, not a magic wand. It breaks the ice and usually lightens the mood around what is a very difficult issue.
Sharing the fact that your marriage has broken down with a virtual stranger must be hard. You may think your solicitor will be shocked by what you tell them, but the reality is we have heard it all before. You would be surprised what people are willing to share about their marriage with their solicitor.
Grounds For Divorce
There is currently only one ground for divorce in England and Wales and that is that your marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’ which means beyond repair. You can rely upon one or more of 5 facts or grounds for divorce: Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour, Desertion, 2 Year Separation with Consent of the other spouse and 5 Year Separation without Consent of the other spouse. These are the terms that you will have heard before.
As it stands, you have to blame the other spouse or wait until you have lived separately and apart for 2 or 5 years to start divorce proceedings. We do not currently have a ‘no-fault’ divorce in this country that you could rely upon to get divorced straight away, but that may be about to change.
It is frustrating when a client comes in and wants to start a divorce, without wanting to enflame an already difficult situation. Having to cobble together some particulars of behaviour can be distressing and unnecessarily upsetting. The majority of times, we are told by our client’s, “We just drifted apart” or “We fell out of love”. Unfortunately, that won’t be sufficient to get divorced.
The highly publicised case of Mr & Mrs Owens in 2017 brought the issue of no-fault divorce back into public focus. The former President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has long been an advocate of simplifying the divorce process. Simplification, modernisation and accessibility appear to be the consensus.
No-Fault Divorce -Hope!
There is hope in the form of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill which is currently having the second reading in the House of Lords on 5th February. This would allow a ‘no-fault’ divorce to be introduced. It has not been passed into Law and there is clearly a way to go, but there is definitely a groundswell of support towards this being implemented sooner rather than later.
There is opposition to this Bill amid concerns that making the process of dissolving the marriage too easy for people dilutes the institution of marriage. Getting married is a binding commitment made by two people who love each other. Should a marriage really be discarded at the first sign of trouble?
The Church of England has expressed their concerns about the bill and Lord Bishop of Carlisle has also commented that making divorce easier would undermine the institution of marriage.
Whether you are supportive of the proposed Bill or against it, the coming weeks and months will make intriguing reading.
Article by Tom Harrison Solicitor