Billie Piper and Laurence Fox are getting divorced after 9 years of marriage, but who is to blame?

In a joint statement they clarified the terms of their separation, saying "Billie and Laurence wish to clarify that the legal wording referred to in connection with today's reported Decree Nisi is the closest option English law currently offers to a timely no fault divorce." If that's clarification, I'll be a monkey's uncle!

So what were they trying to say? What we know is that Billie has applied for divorce on the grounds that the marriage has irretrievably broken down because of Laurence's unreasonable behaviour. So it's all his fault then? Well, not necessarily.

In England and Wales the only ground for divorce is “Irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, so that was always going to be a given. In order to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down you must prove one of five facts, three of which require a period of at least two years separation. If you have not been separated for a two years then you are left with adultery or - da da daaa - unreasonable behaviour.

What Billie and Laurence are effectively saying in their joint statement is that neither of them are really to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, but as they have not been separated for two years it was the only option available to them. It was simply a means to an end – they wanted a divorce, but didn’t want to wait for two years. One of them had to take the blame and Laurence was the fall guy.

Is Laurence taking this one for the team?

It is very common for divorcing couples to seek a divorce based on the unreasonable behaviour of one of the parties, even though they had simply grown apart and mutually agreed to separate on completely amicable terms. It is a very divisive topic, but it does seem absurd to me that in this day and age divorcing couples are effectively forced to lie about their situation to get a divorce.

It is potentially very damaging for divorcing couples to be compelled to set out allegations of unreasonable behaviour, even if they are true; particularly where ongoing cooperation over child arrangements is necessary. It also seems unfair that either party should be put to unnecessary cost, if they both agree that the marriage is over. The argument that making divorce too easy erodes the whole institution of marriage simply does not stack up for me. Divorce is not supposed to be a punishment or deterrent for a failing marriage, it is unfortunately a sad reality of life; sometimes things just don’t work out.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s time for a no fault divorce system in this country.


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