Divorcing in America is Different to England, No Doubt.

Reports in the media suggest Gwen Stefani, singer with the rock band No Doubt, has filed for a divorce in America from her musician husband Gavin Rossdale after 13 years, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’.

Whilst it is unknown what those differences are one thing is very clear, it couldn’t happen in England and Wales – for the time being anyway.

In England and Wales there is only one ground for divorce – ‘irretrievable breakdown’. This needs to be proved by one of five facts; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, living separately for at least two years (if partners consent) or living separately for at least five years (if partners don’t consent).

The major difference from the American system is apportioning blame. There have been recent suggestions in the UK there should be a ‘blame free’ divorce petition, as this would reduce or stop hostility between separating spouses. If irreconcilable differences were introduced in this country there is a good chance most divorcing couples would use this rather than unreasonable behaviour for example.

Both Gwen and Gavin are also pursuing joint access and custody of their children. Again, there are differences to be aware of here in England. Courts in England and Wales have moved away from using labels such as ‘joint’ or ‘sole’ custody and ‘residence’ and ‘contact’. Instead, they are simply referred to as ‘Child Arrangement Orders’, which determine where the child will live and when they will spend time with the other parent. The theory is to not infer one parent has more power than the other.

So while irreconcilable differences and conscious uncoupling may be alive and well in the USA, it’s not that simple over here, and about that there’s no doubt.

If you would like further advice in relation to divorce and child care arrangements, please contact Kirsten Grotte who is a solicitor in the Chafes Hague Lambert family team, on 01625 531 676.


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