THE No Fault Divorce Bill is now set to receive a second reading in Parliament on January 22, 2016.

Currently, couples wishing to divorce have to set out good reasons for a divorce in England and Wales. There are five possible grounds: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with consent, five years separation, and desertion.

Many professionals involved in the family justice system think it is wrong that, to obtain a divorce without the period of separation, a fault-based divorce is the only option.

This can often result in higher levels of acrimony, not to mention legal costs, which often spill over into the more important aspects of a separation such as issues to do with the children or finances, and frankly often cloud those more important issues.

No fault divorce nearly became law before. The Family Law Act of 1996 brought in no fault divorce, but the part of the Act dealing with it was never implemented, and was subsequently repealed by Parliament.

The chair of the family lawyers organisation Resolution, Jo Edwards, has recently commented: “We know that our current fault-based divorce system achieves nothing besides escalating conflict during divorce. It does not act as a deterrent, nor does it help couples to salvage their marriage.

“The latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that 114,720 people divorced in England and Wales in 2013, despite fault-based petitions.

“We are pleased to see Richard Bacon’s Bill having a second reading. If MPs are serious about reducing family conflict and trauma caused by divorce, I urge them to support the Bill as a welcome step towards removing the requirement of fault from divorce.

“Removing the blame from divorce, as proposed, would help couples who both wish to bring their relationship to a dignified conclusion and move on with their lives without the need for accusatory mud-slinging. This outdated system needs urgent revision – a civilised society deserves a civilised divorce process.”

Research by Resolution shows the fault-based nature of divorce in England and Wales, which requires one person to accuse the other of adultery or unreasonable behaviour to have their divorce granted within two years of marriage breakdown, drives 27 per cent of divorcing couples to make false allegations.

Resolution’s research, carried out by YouGov (June 2015), found that:

* 52 per cent of divorce petitions were fault-based alleging either unreasonable behaviour or adultery
* 27 per cent of divorcing couples who asserted blame in their divorce petition admitted the allegation of fault wasn’t true but was the easiest option

Many in the family justice system believe that husbands and wives, parents, and all involved in separation, can often be assisted in finding a less conflicted way through family breakdown, and this Bill, if it becomes law, should help.