Government plans to launch a consultation on no fault divorce

Divorce laws in England and Wales are set for a major shake up under new Government plans to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce.  This will allow couples to split up with less acrimony and opposition.

Vaishali Faldu, a solicitor in Pictons’ family department says “it is anticipated that these proposals could help streamline the slow and confrontational process that we face today”.

The new proposals will retain the irretrievable breakdown of marriage as the sole ground for divorce but will introduce a new procedure in which one spouse can issue a simple notification that cannot be contested by the other. This removes the need for couples to have been separated or allege fault in order to obtain a divorce. Currently, under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, anyone seeking a divorce must rely on one of the following five facts to prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down:-

1.       Unreasonable behaviour

2.       Adultery

3.       2 years separation

4.       Desertion for 2 years

5.       5 years separation.

Demand for change follows the recent case of Owens & Owens [2018] where the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Owens was prevented from divorcing her husband until 5 years had elapsed despite living apart from him since 2015. Mrs Owens was forced to remain in a loveless marriage which has subsequently placed no fault divorce firmly on the agenda for reform.

There has been growing pressure from campaign groups and divorce lawyers for a debate to be launched on proposals to modernise legislation that has not been changed for almost 50 years and which is unfit for our times. With the introduction of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage the law surrounding marriage and lifetime partnerships has already evolved and arguably there is now, more than ever, an opportunity to change the law and introduce no fault divorce. It is hoped that no fault divorce will apply equally to civil partnerships, making it much easier to get a no fault dissolution of civil partnership in the years to come.

It is unclear at this stage whether the consultation will deal with matters of financial provision but it is expected that neither spouse will be financially disadvantaged under a no fault divorce compared to a divorce granted under the other facts or separation periods.

Pictons’ family department offers an initial fixed fee consultation for anyone wishing to discuss divorce which will help you understand all the options available to you. To book an appointment at our Luton, Tring or Milton Keynes offices please call the family department on 0800 302 9448.

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