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No fault divorces to be introduced

The Government has announced that no-fault divorces are to become law in the UK as soon as parliamentary time becomes available. This follows a widespread consultation which took place in 2018 on reforming the law, and there was considerable support for changes to be made, to help make divorce less confrontational and acrimonious.

The new legislation will remove the need for a separating couple to wait for up to five years or allocate blame for the end of their marriage.

Currently under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England & Wales, anyone seeking a divorce must be able to prove that their partner is at fault for the end of the marriage through either adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour or if both parties agree after two years of separation. Otherwise they have to wait until they have been living apart for five years.

The Government also plans to:

  • Allow couples to give notice jointly.    
  • Allow joint applications to become sole applications and vice versa.   
  • Remove the ability for one person to contest a divorce.
  • Retain the two-stage process of decree nisi and decree absolute.
  • Introduce a minimum timeframe of six months from petition to decree absolute.
  • Modernise the language used in the divorce process.

These changes would also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Julie Hobson, Partner at Gullands Solicitors comments: “For a long time there have been calls to change the divorce laws here in the UK for the wider benefit of the family, as if divorce is made a less acrimonious process, former spouses could be encouraged to make more rational and reasonable decisions regarding the day to day care of any children of the marriage and the division of finances. It is hoped the introduction of no-fault divorce means couples are less likely to become enemies.”

The UK Government has been slow to make changes to its divorce laws despite pressure from the legal sector. Sweden for example introduced no fault and mutual divorce back in 1973.

Julie Hobson concludes: “Anything which helps remove the anger, frustration and tension for divorcing couples can only be a good thing, allowing family solicitors to mediate and help an agreement to be reached. Rather than fighting over every point, efforts can be focused in the future on reaching a beneficial solution for all. This will help to enable everyone to move on with their lives and for a family with children to still function in the future without a process that currently encourages hostility.”

Julie Hobson can be contacted at j.hobson@gullands.com