No Fault Divorce allows a married couple to divorce without the need to state that one spouse was at fault. The Government has issued a consultation paper suggesting alternative routes to divorce and the removal of a requirement to prove fault. It is widely predicted, that in the not too distant future, there will be a shake-up of the divorce process. It is hard enough for separating couples as it is. They have to focus on so many different practical aspects of separation at a time when emotions are high, such as managing their finances, supporting their children, making new arrangements. To have to manage a fault based divorce on top of all that can really exacerbate conflict. It can involve having to spend time trying to agree wording describing one or the other party’s unreasonable behaviour which, if both parties agree to divorce, is pointless. Delay adds to this stress. The courts are too busy to process divorces promptly, especially since the system has been centralised. Recent statistics show that divorce is now taking around two months longer. Averages hide the extremes, and local anecdotal experience suggests there is often far more delay. Perhaps the new on-line divorce project will improve things.
Looking further afield to Brexit issues, lawyers are wondering what might be the effect of a no-deal Brexit. In some critical areas it will not make a difference. For example in matters concerning international child abduction, where children are taken across a border without the permission of both parents, the current rules look likely to remain in place. So it will still be possible to ask a court in one EU country to return a child to a different, home EU country. The family court in the home country decides where the child should live in the longer term if the parents cannot agree. There is no clarity about what rules will govern other cases, or those that began before any Brexit changes but are decided after 29th March 2019.
Regarding divorce, there is a possible conflict if one spouse starts a divorce in the UK and another in an EU country because the current rules, which specify which divorce takes priority, look likely to change with a no-deal Brexit. This can make a significant difference as the country with the divorce tends to be the country that determines how property and assets are shared.
If we see the introduction of No Fault Divorce here, it will reduce conflict in this domestic area of divorce. However, there is a high level of uncertainty about what changes lie ahead post-Brexit. That means for families with connections to EU member states, there is likely to be a period of uncertainty for some time to come in the courts.
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Family Lawyer, mediator, and collaborative lawyer