Being able to cite ‘no-fault’ for grounds for divorce will allow couples to split amiably without forcing them to go down an antagonistic route, writes Linda Lamb
Longed for and long-awaited, the no-fault divorce option will finally become law. Two weeks ago, the justice secretary David Gauke announced that he will introduce the law – that will have huge positive implications for couples who wish to split amicably – in the next session of Parliament.
Family law is in the midst of modernisation to reflect changing social attitudes to relationships, with online divorce service which was introduced last spring an example of this. Momentum has been building for a no-fault divorce option to counter an often-unnecessarily adversarial process.
Like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s ‘conscious uncoupling’, more married couples are seeking an amiable way to split in what is already an emotional and difficult time. This can help make the process more emotionally bearable for families as well as helping to facilitate an environment where decisions over the splitting of assets and care of children can be made more easily.
Family organisations, lawyers, journalists as well as divorcing couples have campaigned long and hard to create an option where a couple can seek a divorce without suggesting the other partner is at fault, through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation. Being able to cite ‘no-fault’ for grounds for divorce will allow couples to split amiably without forcing them to go down an antagonistic route.
This will not only reflect the wish of thousands of divorcing couples, but also their children, who can be deeply impacted by their parents’ divorce – especially when it becomes fraught with legal battles.
Advice for those seeking a divorce now
For those seeking a divorce and to finalise the finances and/or the arrangements for the children amiably now ahead of the change in legislation later this year, there are a number of options. Going through the courts can often make the process more hostile, confrontational and can create delays, whereas alternative ways of settling outside of court can help you make decisions about your family’s future in a more collaborative way.
Options range from:
Mediation, whereby a family mediator assists conversations between you and your ex-partner and facilitates an environment where both couples needs will be heard.
If there are any issues that cannot be settled in mediation, a family arbitrator can be appointed who can adjudicate a dispute – for example it may be over particular finances or the children.
Another popular choice is collaborative law – both parties will need to appoint a lawyer that is collaboratively trained. As part of the process you both sign an agreement which states you wish to resolve issues without going to court. Then, your lawyers, your ex-spouse and yourself will hold meetings face to face to work through the decisions that need to be made.
Those seeking to use any of the above would be best to consult their family lawyer. In the meantime it is welcome news that the justice secretary will introduce this legislation and hopefully this will help steamroll other changes in law that are needed to reflect modern family life, such as improved rights for cohabiting couples.
Linda Lamb is a solicitor and director of LSL Family Law