What is no-fault divorce?
The UK laws of divorce have not been reformed since their introduction in 1969. However, there was a move and introduction to no–fault divorce shortly after 1970.
No-fault divorce is a divorce in which the dissolution of a marriage does not require a showing of wrong-doing by either party.
Laws providing for no-fault divorce allow a family court or other court to grant a divorce in response to a petition by either party to the marriage without requiring the petitioner to provide evidence that the respondent has committed a breach of the marital contract.
Laws providing for no-fault divorce also often limit the potential legal defenses of a respondent who would prefer to remain married. At present, couples can be legally parted within six months if one party is shown to be at fault. The most common grounds are unreasonable behavior, which can include committing adultery or devoting too much time to one’s career.
Yet more and more valid reasons are diminishing through no-fault divorces.
One case consists of a judge ruling against a woman who argued at the Court of Appeal that her husband shouldn’t have been allowed to divorce her over ‘trivial’ matters. She did not want the divorce and wanted to fight for her marriage but it was ruled against her.
She is one of many. No-fault laws take away the need to find fault. No-fault divorce law gives either party the freedom to file for divorce with only the claim of “irreconcilable differences.”
Two sides to the story
Jill Kirby, who writes about family life, said: ‘The less the courts consider fault in divorce, the greater the sense of injustice felt by the spouse who thinks he or she was not to blame. If one partner abandons the other, that should be taken into account. When it comes to dividing possessions, it is extraordinary that no account is taken of adultery or other fault.”
Owen Bowcott, a legal affairs correspondent at guardian.com, tends to take a different view. He states: “In the 19th century and for much of the 20th, divorce was a matter of social status – it mattered whether you were divorced or not. If you were, it was important to demonstrate that you were the ‘innocent’ party.
Yet society has now moved away from viewing divorce as shameful, removing the need for one partner to be deemed “innocent” to keep their social status.”
“I am a strong believer in marriage. But I see no good arguments against no-fault divorce.”
Pros and cons?
According to Cathy Meyer, an About.com guide, there are examples of positive and negatives of a no-fault divorce.
Positives of no-fault divorce
- States in America that have adopted the no-divorce law have seen a decline in the rates of domestic violence. These laws have been said to empower a man or woman in an abusive marriage and make it easier to leave.
- It also shortens the length of time it takes to obtain a divorce, which in turn shortens the amount of time in a stressful situation.
Negatives of no-fault divorce
- It takes away control from a spouse that is objective towards the divorce
- It gives more power to family court judges in deciding issues such as custody, splitting marital assets and spousal support. When there is no one at fault, a judge’s decisions are based solely on his feelings — which are not always objective.
- The family court system’s allegiance that was once with the institution of marriage is now with the institution of divorce. Family courts used to put effort into protecting the sanctity of marriage: now the main concern is to make divorce quick and easy and get it off the docket.
The “family” court system
It is disturbing to see how the family court system has now completely flipped its allegiance simply because they were tired of dealing with feuding couples. Highlighting the word “family” in their name shows strong contradiction in that now what they are supporting is the exact opposite of the word.
When divorce laws originated, grounds for the divorce had to be established; but now if one party of the marriage wants out, it is permitted despite how the other party feels about it.”
According to Cathy Meyer, an About.com guide, a few states in America such as Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona have now passed laws that give couples the option to choose, before they marry, which laws they would want to apply to their divorce should the marriage end.
They can choose between “covenant marriage” or the no-fault option. In covenant marriage, couples agree to pre-marital counseling and to limit the grounds and options should they decide to divorce.
Reading this, in my opinion, describes to me a loss of value in the vows and promises that are made to each other on the day of marriage, therefore a loss of value in marriage itself. Family court judge Randall Hekman said, “It is easier to divorce my wife of 26 years than to fire someone I hired one week ago. The person I hire has more legal clout than my wife of 26 years. That’s wrong.”
Once the value of marriage has lessened, more and more spouses are not bothered by the difficulty in divorce: therefore, unfortunately, they are often no longer willing to invest as much time and energy into saving their marriage.
So what does this mean to us?
There are many angles with which no-fault divorce can be observed from. The side of the divorce that a person is standing on will determine their opinion. Perhaps another important question we should be asking ourselves is: What does marriage mean to us?
Is no-fault divorce allowing relief in the stressful situation of divorce? Or is it encouraging a lack of need to fight for marriages?
Marriage is not something that should be entered without the utmost care and intention to abide by the promises that are made on the day one says ‘I do.’