Consultation on proposed no fault divorce legislation

Page 1 of 10

Closes 2 Jan 2020

Introduction

There is one ‘ground’ for divorce in our current legislation – that the marriage* has broken down irretrievably. But this ground has to be proven by one of five facts:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion for two years
  4. Two years’ separation and both parties consent
  5. Five years’ separation without the consent of one party.

Thus the current process of obtaining a divorce if both parties agree involves a minimum separation of two years. The wait is five years if it is contested. Where the reason for divorce is given as unreasonable behaviour or adultery, the time to obtain a divorce can be reduced. A Deemster may not grant a divorce if the behaviour cited is considered not to amount to unreasonable behaviour.

Research has shown that it is by far better for all parties if divorce or separation can be agreed. But the current wait of two years can be financially crippling for separating couples since finances cannot be finalised until the actual divorce is proceeding. The alternative, which results in achieving a quicker timescale, is for one party to blame the other for the breakdown. This can lead to acrimony which spills out into arguments about the children and/or finances. 

At present one party files for divorce, dissolution, separation or annulment, paying a £280.50 fee. However, legal representation can increase the financial burden on couples.

In England ‘fault divorces’ on grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery are around 60% of all divorces; in the Isle of Man the figures are similar: 56.5% in 2016 and 61.5% in 2017. (See table below for breakdown). This drops to around 6% in places such as Scotland where no fault divorces can be obtained.

Year 2 years separation with consent Behaviour Adultery 5 year separation 2 year desertion Total Fault-based divorces % (Behaviour & Adultery
2016 81 113 29 27 1 251 56.9
2017 55 93 22 17 0 187 61.5
2018 65 89 25 24 1 204 56.3

Source: Nisi Pronouncements courtesy of Isle of Man Registry

We are interested in your views about the Isle of Man commencing a ‘no fault/no blame’ divorce process. This would enable couples to apply for a divorce on the basis that one or both agreed the marriage or civil partnership was at its end.

The proposed legislation would enable couples to divorce without giving a reason after a minimum period of 26 weeks from jointly or individually applying for a divorce.

*where it states marriage, the proposals would apply equally to ending a marriage, dissolution of civil partnership and judicial separation.

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