Many family lawyers are keen to emphasise that they try to deal with divorce cases in a constructive and amicable manner which not only helps to reduce the hostility between the parties but it can also reduce the resulting legal costs. However, there is one large obstacle to overcome which is that except for in limited circumstances, it is not possible to get a divorce without some degree of fault or blame being put on one of the spouses.
The only ground to obtain a divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Irretrievable breakdown has to be proven by the petitioning party citing one of 5 facts which are as follows:
- The other party has committed adultery.
- The other party has behaved unreasonably.
- The parties have lived separately and apart or more than 2 years and both parties consent to a divorce.
- The other party has deserted the petitioning party for more than 2 years.
- The parties have lived separately and apart for more than 5 years.
It therefore follows that you can only obtain a divorce without having to put any blame on your spouse if you have lived separately and apart for more than 2 years if your spouse consents to the divorce or for more than 5 years if they do not consent.
This does present a difficulty in those cases where the parties both accept that the marriage has broken down and their relationship remains quite amicable but one is then served with a divorce petition alleging all sorts of things about them. The “unreasonable behaviour” petition is by far the most commonly used petition and the Court normally will want to see between 4 to 6 examples of how the other party has behaved unreasonably. Whilst these examples can be relatively mild (e.g. failure to help with housework, sometimes getting into a mood and indulging in periods of silence), they are still likely to add fuel to the fire in an already hostile separation or make an amicable split more awkward.
Whilst campaigners including Britain’s most senior female Judge, Baroness Hale, say they would welcome reform, there are those who say that a change in the law would undermine the concept of marriage and the responsibilities that go with it.
Proposals for an overhaul of these divorce laws have previously been placed before Parliament and have been rejected. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the debate and only time will tell whether a system that removes some of the bitterness from an already emotional situation can be introduced.
Contact our Divorce Solicitors in Birmingham