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Prior to 6 April 2022, in order to divorce your spouse without having to wait a period of time, it was necessary for the divorcing party to blame the other for the marriage breakdown by alleging adultery or unreasonable behaviour. From 6 April 2022, the ‘no fault’ divorce was introduced meaning that the only ground for divorce is that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. You will not be asked to provide any other reasons.
For many, the new law is a welcome change. It allows the parties to divorce amicably, encouraging co-operation and minimising unnecessary finger pointing. However, for some, they believe the reason for the marriage breakdown is important and that any blame should be properly assigned, particularly if this is likely to impact on financial settlement.
Generally speaking, the reason for the relationship breakdown is not relevant to how the marital assets will be divided between you. This has always been the case. Usually, the court will not consider your spouse’s behaviour or conduct as being relevant to overall financial settlement.
The law is designed to achieve fairness. Where a dispute arises, first consideration will be given to any dependent child or children of the marriage. Thereafter, the court must consider a set of factors set out at section 25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Although one of those factors is ‘conduct’, it is important to note that conduct will only be considered in exceptional circumstances and will only impact upon the terms of a financial settlement where it would be inequitable to disregard it.
If your spouse has cheated on you, this alone will not be considered relevant as to how the assets will be divided between you. Whilst that may seem unfair, the court will not ‘punish’ your spouse financially for bad behaviour which occurred during, or which led to the breakdown of, the marriage.
For further advice about this, or any other legal issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship, please contact our experienced Family Team.