In the context of coronavirus, throwing accusations just to prove that your relationship is over seems particularly unfair, especially when it might not be infidelity but a simple lack of personal space to blame for a break-up.
There is currently legislation before the UK parliament that proposes an end to fault-based divorce in England and Wales. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill seeks to “end the blame game” by allowing either one or both parties to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably; furthermore, if one party wants the divorce, the other party will not be able to contest it, as happened in the case of Tini Owens.
The bill would allow some time for the parties to agree on practical arrangements – the minimum period is to be 20 weeks. However, the current six-week waiting period before a final decree will potentially be retained
And while the new legislation provides an opportunity to improve, it will still leave England and Wales lagging behind other countries that have a more liberal approach more suited to post-pandemic separations.
France introduced divorce by mutual consent in the 1970s.
Since 2016, the civil code has allowed parties to agree that their marriage has broken down without the involvement of a judge.
Lawyers acting for both parties oversee the procedure, checking that the agreement and deadlines are observed. Afterwards, the parties are given 15 days to reconcile and if they decide to proceed, the agreement is given to a notary who verifies it and monitors compliance with the arrangement.
After a certain date the divorce agreement becomes binding. In total, the procedure costs €50 (£45). In the UK, by contrast, a divorce costs £550.
In the French example, if a couple has property to divide, a notary must be involved to oversee the division. A fee of 1% of the total value of the assets is charged, depending how much the parties hold in common.
The family court gets involved only when a child requests to be heard or special jurisdiction has to be exercised because a child is in danger.
Divorce is a serious legal separation. Making it less complex would not make people change their mind on their marriages overnight. What it would do is save the emotional toll for those who have drifted away and would like to separate quickly and peacefully.
Lockdown has been challenging enough – simplifying the separation afterwards would save the confrontation between parties and harm to their extended families.
There will be those whose relationships will survive this difficult time, but those whose will not deserve a chance to wipe the slate clean.