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No Fault Divorce

Published: 5 June 2019

Update to 50 year old Divorce Law - a change in divorce law looks set to stop the 'blame game' to help reduce family conflict.

The news that no-fault divorce is likely to become law has been welcomed but while the legislation waits for its place in the parliamentary calendar, families must continue to deal with spouses being forced to evidence 'unreasonable behaviour' or years of separation even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways.

And with the parliamentary calendar fully absorbed with BREXIT no date has been given for debating the proposed changes. 

Fault in divorce can and often does cause conflict between spouses.  Conflict can have serious long-term effects on children.  There is a large body of evidence showing the negative impact of conflict stemming from divorce on children of divorcing couples.

As a Resolution member, I am committed to reducing unnecessary conflict, agreeing to a non-confrontational way of working that puts the best interests of children first.  The current law says, unless you have been separated for 2 years with consent, or 5 years without, you have to divorce on the grounds of adultery or behaviour.

Official statistics show that:-

  • There are over 100,000 divorces in England and Wales each year (ONS 2018)
  • Behaviour is the most common fact used for opposite-sex divorce (52%) and same-sex divorce (83% among women, 73% among men) (ONS 2018)
  • In 2015, 60% of divorces in England and Wales were granted for either adultery or behaviour, compared with just 6-7% in Scotland where the law is different (Finding Fault 2017)

Divorce is always difficult, but having to show fault can increase the conflict between the couple, inflame relations that are already strained by a breakdown and make it more difficult to sort out child and financial arrangements when the marriage ends.

However, while signalling the likely shift to mutual agreement, the Ministry of Justice announcement sets out plans for a minimum six month timeframe from making a petition until final divorce, so that couples have time for reflection before securing a divorce. 

Professionals have welcomed the potential change in the law, which hopefully will shift towards a more conciliatory approach to divorce in the future.

The proposed changes include:

  • the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage to be the sole ground
  • the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
  • removing the ability to contest a divorce
  • continuing to have a two-stage legal process, known currently as the decree nisi and decree absolute
  • introducing a minimum timeframe of six months from the date of making the petition until final divorce, with 20 weeks from petition to decree nisi and six weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute

If you would like any more information in relation to this article then please feel free to contact Manesha Ruparel on 01332 600005 or via email on MR@AandCo.co.uk

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of legal interest about current legal issues.