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‘No fault divorce’ introduced – biggest change in Divorce Law in 50 years

The government has finally announced plans to introduce ‘no fault divorce’, which means divorcing couples no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. The reform to the divorce law was announced by Secretary David Gauke on 9th April 2019, and has been welcomed by family lawyers as the beginning of the end to the ‘blame game.’

The current grounds for Divorce

The current law states that there is only one ground for divorce – namely, the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. To evidence that a marriage has broken down irretrievably, an individual must rely upon either:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Adultery
  • Two years’ separation (with consent)
  • Five years’ separation

Many divorcing couples wish to initiate the divorce process straight away and do not wish to wait at least two years for various reasons. This means, without no fault Divorce, one spouse would have to blame the other spouse by relying upon adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This can raise tensions in an already emotionally charged situation. Divorce is stressful, and blame impacts on the couple’s ability to resolve their finances – but more importantly, it exposes children to an ongoing conflict between their parents.

The need for a change to divorce laws followed the Supreme Court decision in the case of Owens -v- Owens. Mrs Owens wanted to divorce her husband after 40 years and alleged that the marriage had broken down as evidenced by Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour. Mr Owens refused to agree to the divorce petition and the Supreme Court rejected Mrs Owens appeal. This means the couple must remain married until 2020, despite the fact that the judge found that the marriage had broken down.

The proposed grounds for ‘no fault Divorce’

The proposed changes for no fault Divorce mean that an individual who wishes to get divorced will simply have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably; there will no longer be a requirement to evidence one of five reasons for the breakdown. The new rules will include a minimum timeframe of six months from petition stage to decree absolute, which is the legal document which dissolves the marriage. The government says that the six-month period will give the individual sufficient time for reflection and ‘opportunity to turn back’. At the end of the six months, the individual who issued divorce proceedings will be required to affirm their decision before the divorce is granted. There will also be an option for couples to apply for a divorce jointly and the ability to contest a divorce will be removed.

The government say the changes will be implemented as soon as parliamentary time allows. The divorce process will never be easy but the changes can only be positive and will hopefully reduce hostility and will allow some of the stigma around divorce to be removed.

If you have any further questions regarding divorce then please do not hesitate to contact the family team who will be able to assist you further.

Enquire for help with Divorce and Separation disputes

If you’re separating from your spouse and are struggling to agree child arrangements, our Divorce and Family Law team are on-hand to assist in applying for a child court order. Our dedicated staff are able to offer advice on your specific needs.

Contact our Divorce team directly



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