The breakdown of a marriage is often a painful, difficult, and emotional time, regardless of the specific circumstances that surround the separation.
It’s not surprising then, that these heightened emotions often result in people holding their partner entirely responsible for the relationship breakdown. Whether he cheated, she cheated, it was their idea to separate and not yours, or you’re simply angry and upset about the situation, blame gets thrown around in the world of divorce like confetti.
So what does blame have to do with divorce in the Australian family law system?
Frustratingly for some: absolutely nothing.
The United Kingdom is currently experiencing a significant shake-up of their divorce laws for the first time in 50 years. The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Bill has been put before parliament once again with some of the proposed amendments aiming to remove the blame game often associated with divorce. Couples in the UK are currently able to obtain a divorce on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour” (which, yes, is a polite way of saying someone cheated).
Unlike our British counterparts, the Australian family law system already operates on a “no-fault” basis, meaning the Court does not consider whether one party was responsible for the breakdown of a marriage over the other. In order to obtain a divorce in Australia the Court must be satisfied that:
- One of, or both, of the parties are Australian citizens, permanently reside in Australia and/or consider Australia their home;
- The parties have been separated for at least 12-months, demonstrating the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship; and
- The care arrangements for any children under the age of 18 are appropriate.
It’s also important to remember that a “divorce” is simply an order made by the Court symbolising the end of the marriage. A divorce does not include the division of property such as houses, cars, possessions and superannuation, or an agreement in relation to care arrangements for children.