Thank you for contacting me about ‘no fault’ divorce.
In my view marriage is one of the most important institutions we have. The principles of long-term commitment and responsibility which underpin it bind society together and make it stronger, and I am pleased the Government is of the same view.
The end of a marriage is an extremely painful time for any couple, like everyone I have witnessed the pain of friends and family going through the process. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act has been brought in to try and remove the provisions in current divorce law that exacerbate the pain and bitterness of divorce, that is why I supported the Bill in Parliament.
When a relationship ends, it cannot be right for the law to introduce or exacerbate conflict between divorcing couples. Currently, couples have an incentive to blame each other for the end of marriage based on ‘unreasonable behaviour’, adultery or desertion unless they wait to divorce on the basis of separation for a minimum of two years, even if the separation is mutual. If one spouse objects to the divorce then the other spouse must wait five years before seeking a divorce. In my view it is to the benefit of both the divorcing parties and any children they may have that the law seeks to minimise the conflict and pain caused by divorce. Children can be harmed because the existing process toxifies the atmosphere in which a couple approach the negotiations over arrangements for children and finances.
As I am sure you are aware, the changes in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act mean that the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will remain the sole ground for divorce. At the same time the Act removes the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart. A new notification process will allow one, or possibly both parties, to notify the court of the intention to divorce. Finally, the changes remove the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce, which serves no practical purpose.
I would like to reassure you that these reforms do not introduce a quick divorce. Indeed, I understand that for around 80 per cent of couples, divorce will actually take longer than it does at the current time. A new minimum period of 20 weeks will be introduced from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made. The six-week minimum period between conditional and final orders will remain.
Removing the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation would promote a less acrimonious process, helping families look to the future.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.