The House of Commons has published a briefing paper which explains the arguments for and against ‘no fault divorce’.
It was written by a researcher at the Commons Library, a government information service that provides impartial analysis to Members of Parliament.
The paper included information about divorce law in England and Wales. Author Catherine Fairbairn explained that the only way to be granted one is to demonstrate that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. Legally, a couple must establish this irretrievable breakdown one of five ways: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation of two years with both parties’ consent and separation of five years without consent. Three of these ways are explicitly fault based.
However, there have been many attempts to introduce no fault divorce. The paper details the inclusion of the idea in the Family Law Act 1996. This was deemed “unworkable” by the government at the time and the provisions were soon eliminated.
Advocates of no fault divorce legislation include senior members of the judiciary, according to the paper. President of the Family Division Sir James Munby and his predecessor Sir Nicholas Wall both gave speeches in the last decade during which they indicated their support. Family law organisation Resolution and the governmental Family Mediation Taskforce have also called for such an amendment to the law.
Arguments against creating no fault divorce were also explained. These included Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh’s claim that enacting it would lead to an increase in the divorce rate. Leigh suggested that such a law would eventually result in “more disadvantaged children”, women working longer hours and a “wide variety of [other] social problems”.
Last year Richard Bacon, another Tory MP, introduced a Ten Minute Bill which would create no fault divorce but it did not go any further than its first reading in the House of Commons.
Download the full briefing paper from the Commons Library page here.