For a number of years divorce lawyers particularly through Resolution First For Family Law (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) have lobbied for a change in divorce law.
Currently to obtain a “quickie” divorce a husband or wife have to allege (against the other) adultery or unreasonable behaviour. In particular, with unreasonable behaviour, allegations have to be made of bad behaviour sufficient to satisfy a Judge on an objective basis (with a bit of a subjective twist) that it is no longer reasonable for the couple to remain married.
However when trying to resolve issues about the children and finances family lawyers and Courts (for some time now) have tried to reduce conflict as this is being seen as harmful for any children of the family. In financial applications the Court will only take bad conduct into account if it is very, very bad. Examples of cases where bad conduct has been taken into account usually centre around incidents where one spouse has physically harmed the other spouse so badly that he or she cannot work anymore.
It has been argued that the law is inconsistent and difficult to explain why in one area of family law – divorce – conduct is relevant – but in other areas it is not taken into account. There was also the recent case of Tini Owens who tried to divorce her husband on unreasonable behaviour and made a significant number of allegations against him – it is believed around 262. Hugh Owens did not accept the allegations against him. Her appeal to the Supreme Court was not successful and she must now remain married to her husband until 2 years separation have elapsed – 2020.
The Government are now as soon as possible going to bring in a no fault divorce law. All that has to be proved is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably with a 6 month period of reflection. So no more alleging conduct – but a spouse can it would appear be able to divorce his or her spouse without their agreement quite quickly i.e. after 6 months. At the moment with a no fault divorce – separation – there is a wait. Two years if by agreement; or five years if no agreement.
The Government do not consider that it is good for couples and their children to be stuck in failed marriages; and it takes two to make a marriage work. But is the 6 month period of reflection long enough?
Whilst the press quote that a divorce may be obtained with 3 to 6 months this is not the reality if one of the centralised Divorce Centres are being used. It usually takes around 9 to 12 months for a divorce to be completed because of the processing delays at the Divorce Centres. An online divorce pilot is operating in specific areas which would appear to have significantly speeded up the divorce process (for those living in the right postcode).