A family lawyer at a leading firm has already seen a rise in divorce enquiries on the day that ‘no fault’ divorces came into effect. Until today (Wednesday, April 6) in England and Wales, couples who wanted to split quickly were forced to accuse their partner of wrongdoing in a divorce petition – rendering an ‘amicable’ divorce difficult.
Partners had to argue there had been desertion, adultery or unreasonable behaviour on the other’s part, or spend between two and five years apart before the split could go ahead. But under a change in the law, one partner or both can now file for divorce without having to blame the other.
Londoner Nigel Winter, a partner at legal firm DMH Stallard, told MyLondon the change would improve children’s lives when their parents break up. He said: “Until today, one side has received hurtful allegations at the worst time – when they need to sort out their finances, the house and the kids. You start with blame. A double sting in the tail is that the respondent was forced to pay the other side’s legal costs. Let’s pull back from that and focus on the children.”
READ MORE:What is the no-fault divorce law and when will it come into effect?
(Image: Creative commons/ Jennifer Pahlka)
He added that under the old law, separated couples approach lawyers and say they want an amicable divorce – and then it quickly turns sour. “We have to blame one or the other. And it isn’t as easy as waiting two years – new partners can get involved,” he told MyLondon, adding that handling the fallout is like “defusing a bomb”.
It can have an extremely negative impact on the children, Mr Winter said: “There’s a tendency for kids to come to us and say ‘what went wrong’? People have divorce petitions in their top drawer and kids sometimes see it. And there is tension in a home when one side says ‘you said I did this, and I didn’t’. It kicks off and children hear it through the floorboards at night. Now there’s no need to deal with any of that.”
Mr Winter said he expected to see a “gradual rise” in divorce petitions under the new rules. He said: “People will issue that divorce petition sooner rather than later. It will be so much easier to say ‘you’re having the kids this weekend’ when there’s no blame. There’s no doubt about it that this will improve children’s lives considerably.” There are more than 100,000 divorces in the UK each year.
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Josiah joined MyLondon as the outlet’s first City Hall Editor in October 2021, reporting on the Mayor, the London Assembly, the Met police, Transport for London, and wider London politics.
He moved to South London from Brussels in 2015, working in communications for the Electoral Reform Society, and covering Westminster politics as a freelance journalist. Originally from Cornwall, he is now also a proud Londoner. Josiah has appeared on BBC Radio 4, Times Radio, LBC and other outlets to discuss current affairs and general political chaos.
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