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Government Announces No-Fault Divorce To Be Implemented ‘As Soon As Parliamentary Time Allows’

First Changes To Divorce Law In Decades

09.04.2019

Jenny Batchelor, Press Officer | 0207 421 3951

The government has announced no-fault divorce will be introduced as soon as there is parliamentary time available, ending the ‘blame game’ between divorcing couples.

Following a consultation from the government, the Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced today (9 April) that new legislation allowing for no-fault divorce would be introduced ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’.

Currently divorcing couples must prove one of three facts – adultery, desertion or “unreasonable behaviour” – or they must wait two years if both sides agree and five if the divorce is contested.

The new proposals will not allow spouses to contest a divorce and for there to be a six-month reflection period upon making the application. Couples will only need to state the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and they have the option of making a joint application.

The move comes following the high-profile case of Tini Owens, who saw her application for a divorce denied by the Supreme Court in August 2018. The first judge originally rejected her case on the basis that she did not have sufficient grounds to divorce her husband.

There was a national outcry at the decision from the public and the legal sphere, and the outcome left Mrs Owens trapped in her marriage. This bolstered the profile for the campaign arguing that the current system wrongly creates conflict in an otherwise amiable separation.

No-fault divorce marks the first change to divorce law in fifty years, but experts at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell argue there are other areas of family law that require far more urgent reform.

Expert Opinion
“The news that no-fault divorce will become a reality and divorce laws will be changed for the first time in fifty years will be considered a welcome move by both the public and the family law community which has been campaigning for this for many years. Taking unnecessary conflict out of the process will undoubtedly benefit divorcing couples and their children.

“However, there is one area of family law in particular that requires far more urgent reform: cohabitation. At the end of the day no-fault divorce modifies an existing law – cohabitees, the fastest-growing household type, have no law whatsoever protecting them or structuring proceedings upon relationship breakdown or death. The Law Commission reported in 2007 with recommendations for reform that have been ignored by successive governments.

“No-fault divorce is a move which while welcome, is not something which is going to hugely benefit those facing financial hardship such as cohabitants, and that is where the focus should be now.”
Ros Bever, Partner