No-fault divorce law set to end ‘blame game’


Divorce law in England and Wales is set for a major overhaul with couples no longer required to prove fault to get divorced.

Under current rules, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

To demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, one partner will have to prove one of the following five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years’ separation with consent
  • Five years’ separation with no consent required

This means that if adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion cannot be proven, couples may have to wait up to 5 years before they can begin divorce proceedings.

How will no-fault divorces change this?

After the introduction of no-fault divorces, one spouse will still need to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

However, the requirement to provide evidence of one of the five facts above will be replaced with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The ability for one spouse to ‘contest’ a divorce in court will also be removed.

The new rules will include a timeframe of six months from the petition stage to when the legal document ending the marriage can be submitted (known as the decree absolute).

This is designed to give the spouse enough time to reflect on the decision and offer an opportunity to turn back.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said of the changes: “Frankly, we are not going to keep marriages together having a divorce process that just makes it more acrimonious [and] tries to apportion blame in such a way that the couple are likely to have a weaker, poorer relationship subsequently than they would otherwise do.”

When will no-fault divorce rules be introduced?

Although there is no specific date for the introduction of the changes, it has been confirmed that no-fault divorces will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

At the end of June, MPs offered initial support to the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales. In order for no-fault divorce to become law, it will now undergo further scrutiny from MPs before being considered in the House of Lords.

What impact will the changes have?

The current fault-based divorce system is now seen by many to increase the stress of what is already a difficult time. Especially where children are involved, ongoing conflicts between spouses can be damaging.

The introduction of no-fault divorces hopes to allow people to resolve issues in a non-confrontational manner as partners will no longer have to apportion blame or prove between 2 and 5 years separation.

Talk to the specialist family and divorce solicitors at Farnworth Rose

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