No fault Divorce
A no fault divorce is a new divorce law that simplifies the process of divorce and it removes the option to contest the divorce. Therefore, in almost all cases, it is not possible to stop the process of an application for divorce started by you or your spouse. You do not need to prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Proposed reforms to Divorce Law in England and Wales have recently been expedited by the introduction of the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill in the House of Commons. This Bill is the first legislative step toward the ‘No Fault’ divorce being introduced.
Justice Secretary David Guake stated that this was designed to put an end to the ‘unnecessary mudslinging’ that exists under the current fault-based divorce system in the UK. This will be a positive step toward making divorce proceedings more amicable and increasing the functionality of family life following the breakdown of a marriage.
These developments have shone a light on the lack of progress within the area of divorce law in Northern Ireland. The current law in this jurisdiction places emphasis on the ‘fault-based’ divorce, where a spouse must prove their partner is at fault by way of adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour. If neither party is ‘blaming’ the other, then they must prove that there are grounds for divorce on the basis of ‘irretrievable breakdown’.
To satisfy these criteria, the couple will need to have lived apart for at least one year. The main problem with this is that following a marriage breakdown former partner will be keen to expedite their divorce proceedings. To achieve this under the current legislation in Northern Ireland there must be an at-fault party. This unsurprisingly leads to less than amicable splits which cause serious harm not only to the former partner’s relationship but also to their wider family life. This is particularly true where children are involved.
A 2015 report found that 27% of divorcing couples who asserted blame in their divorce petition admitted the allegations were not true at a later date. This is a damning indictment of the current law in Northern Ireland and reflects the need for urgent reform.
The introduction of a ‘no fault’ divorce in Northern Ireland has been kept under review in recent years and it is anticipated that the current developments in England and Wales will accelerate reform of the law in this jurisdiction. The ‘no fault’ divorce would reduce hostility between the separating couple and promote healthy relationships following a divorce, this would be particularly important if the separating couple have children. Unfortunately, lawyers can only apply the law as it currently exists.
Does Northern Ireland have a No-fault Divorce?
Currently, no-fault divorce is only available in England and Wales, while Northern Ireland resumes with the fault-based divorce. This means that individuals seeking divorce in Northern Ireland must be able to prove that their marriage is irretrievably broken for certain reasons including:
Two years separation with the consent of the other spouse
Desertion for two years
Five years seperation
How long will a no-fault divorce take?
The no-fault divorce is not yet available in Northern Ireland, however, since the no fault divorce law was brought in in England and Wales, you can initiate divorce proceedings under the new law, which follows a no-fault process as outlined below:
Submission of a single or joint application for a divorce order.
Approximately 20 weeks later, after confirming the intention to proceed, the court will issue a Conditional Order.
Around 6 weeks after that, the Final Order will be granted.
Based on this, it can be expected that a no-fault divorce can take between 6-8 months.
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