Divorce Strategies:Is there such a thing as a ‘Blame-free divorce’?

Is there such a thing as a ‘Blame-free divorce’?

If you are contemplating going through a divorce, you may or may not already be aware that unless you have been living apart for two years and you both agree to the divorce, you must  assign some sort of blame towards your soon to be ex husband or wife. The options available are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or 5 years’ separation. Given that unreasonable behaviour is the popular option for most clients, as it seems to cover most bases, many clients are particularly stumped when they are further requested to provide specific instances of this often historical unreasonable behaviour.

Trawling your mind back to particular events that may have annoyed you about your spouse over petty arguments as to who did or did not do the household chores can be difficult and emotionally draining. In addition, when your respondent spouse receives his or her divorce papers 

highlighting an argument that occurred weeks or even months ago it comes as no surprise that they take umbrage with the list of petty ‘grounds for divorce’ and this of course is the first stumbling block to the divorce process. This blame concept can often create further conflict between parties to a divorce and more often than not, can make reaching an agreement much more difficult especially where children are concerned. 

There are new proposals in place mooting the decision to remove the blame issue from divorce proceedings altogether in order to make it easier for people who are going through a divorce.This current barrier in place seems to do nothing more than exceed the level of conflict throughout divorce proceedings, at a time in a person’s life when matters are already most likely to be fraught.

Essentially, if you decide that your marriage is over and you require a divorce shouldn’t you be afforded the opportunity to avoid this unhelpful charade in order to satisfy a court as to whether yourself and your spouse are content that the marriage is over? In place of this archaic process, the new proposals, similar to what already exists in USA, suggest that a new divorce process be adopted, one whereby one or both of the spouses give notice that the marriage has irretrievably broken down - the divorce then proceeds and after a cooling off period of six months, the divorce is finalised.

What is frustrating is that these issues have not been addressed by government even though divorce without blame was actually provided for in the 1996 Family Law Act. In addition, Lady Hale, a top female Judge has continually recommended that the blame aspect be removed from the divorce process and yet nothing has actively been done to amend it. 

The fact of the matter is, families have changed over the years, and if we are to keep up with changes in society, we must accept that in most cases, divorcing couples have already come to the agreement that their marriage has irretrievably broken down without the need for this emotionally drawn out and quite spiteful undertone. Divorce is difficult enough; it needn’t be made harder with such an outdated legal framework.

If you are thinking of going through a divorce, get in touch with one of our specialist family lawyers on 0208 252 7373 to discuss in detail all of the options available to you – as with anything in life, planning early and placing an effective strategy in place is essential, but very often overlooked.

Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor

Pinder Reaux & Associates