Elon Musk affair rumours highlight the many benefits of no-fault divorce

30 Jul 2022 | Lisa Pepper

Elon Musk hit the headlines recently, denying rumours that he had an affair with the wife of Google cofounder Sergey Brin. The alleged tryst prompted Brin to file for divorce and a major falling out between the two billionaires, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Musk took to Twitter to refute the story, but it raises an interesting question – would an affair have any impact on a UK divorce case since adultery is no longer a reason for divorce?

Since April 2022, couples in England and Wales have been able to obtain a ‘no-fault divorce‘ without the need to apportion blame – such as citing adultery. You only have to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The laws have been called an ‘hallelujah moment’ for couples who wish to end their marriage amicably and without any Musk-style drama. But there are plenty of other benefits besides removing the blame game.

Here are our top six for you.

#1: No-fault divorce cannot be contested
In the past, if you wanted to get divorced, and your spouse was against it, you had to prove that your spouse had committed adultery, behaved unreasonably or deserted you. In other words, you had to accuse your ex of something – and your ex could contest the divorce. With no-fault divorce, this is no longer possible. The new laws do not allow someone to dispute the divorce except in extremely limited circumstances (for example, if your spouse says you should not be divorcing here but in another country). This should reduce the chance of a lengthy and contentious legal battle so your divorce can be decided sooner.

#2: More cooperative decision making
Previously, couples had no option but to place the blame on their partner for the breakdown of the marriage. This could set an acrimonious tone from the beginning, and with facing many difficult issues to address and agree – what happens to the family home, should there be spousal maintenance, how do we share the care of the children…. things risked getting off to a bad start before any of the “hard stuff” was addressed. With a no-fault divorce, there’s less scope for arguments and bad feelings. You can even apply for the divorce together in a joint application, which means both partners are accepting the marriage is at an end and cooperating at the outset.

#3: Keeps the costs down
While it’s early days for no-fault divorce in the UK, the hope is that it will help to keep the cost of a divorce down. A contested divorce that goes all the way to a court final hearing costs thousands, and is unnecessary – and bear in mind a case about the financial settlement between you, or the shared care arrangements for the children, would be separate and incur additional costs. If you both agree to the divorce and are motivated to compromise and conduct yourselves with dignity, perhaps with the help of a mediator to facilitate a discussion around the difficult issues – – you’re looking at a fraction of that amount.

#4: Less stressful for the children
If you have children, then it’s important to think about how the divorce will affect them. A no-fault divorce is more likely to start things off on the right foot. Witnessing arguments between parents can trigger early anxiety issues and other mental health issues in children. Sow the seeds of collaboration by agreeing how the divorce will proceed; it will benefit your children so much if you can keep the process amicable.

#5: Takes less time
A no-fault divorce is not a ‘quickie’ divorce (there’s no such thing), and the process is not designed to be ultra-fast. In fact, there’s a new minimum period of 20 weeks for ‘meaningful reflection,’ between applying for a divorce and the Conditional Order (what was the Decree Nisi). While this may seem like a long time to wait, in reality it gives couples an opportunity to talk about the practicalities for living arrangements, settling the financial split and looking after the children. Use this time wisely and you can finalise your divorce in around six months or so, without any court hearings.

#6: It empowers people who are in difficult relationships
For some people, the thought of divorce is a scary prospect. If you have experienced domestic violence or are worried about your ex’s reaction to the divorce, then a no-fault divorce can be a way for you to start to take back control and make decisions. Previously, in order to divorce, you had to either cite examples of your ex’s unreasonable behaviour or say they had committed adultery (which might have made you anxious, fearing repercussions) or if your ex would not consent to a divorce after two years separation you’d have to wait five years before a divorce could be granted, which gave perpetrators additional time to control their partner.

No-fault divorce ends the blame game and hopefully helps many more couples start what are sad and difficult conversations about their separation, in a calm and dignified way.

Lisa Pepper is a partner in the family department specialising in divorce, finance and children matters matters. She is also an accredited mediator. She is ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers UK, Chambers HNW, The Legal 500, Spears HNW directory and Tatler Advisory.

To speak with Lisa or her team please call or complete the form below.

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