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No-Fault Divorces Confirmed to Reform Current Divorce Laws

Posted on April 11, 2019
will no-fault divorce end the 'blame game'

Plans to overhaul the current divorce laws in England and Wales have been confirmed – by way of new ‘no-fault’ divorces. Justice Secretary David Gauke has recently announced the new divorce law reform will be introduced as soon as ‘parliamentary time becomes available’. This will overrule the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which has governed divorce law within England and Wales for 45 years.

Under these new rules, only one spouse will only have to state that their marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’, without blaming the other for the breakdown. Gauke said the changes would help to end the ‘blame game’ that can burden spouses and their families, reason being the current divorce process makes the relationship between couples ‘more acrimonious’ and causes unnecessary conflict.

Background of the divorce law reform

Changes to current divorce law were spurred last year by the media uproar following the case of Owens v Owensin which the Supreme Court unanimously rejected a women’s appeal for divorce after her husband refused to separate. Although Ms Owens wanted to divorce her husband on the grounds that she was ‘unhappy’, the court ruled that this was not reason enough in the eyes of the law which meant that a spouse could only issue divorce proceedings on the fact of ‘adultery’, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and ‘desertion’ Without the consent of her husband, the couple were to remain married until 2020.

The first formal proposals of divorce law reform were introduced last year, wherein Gauke stated current divorce law were ‘outdated’ and ‘out of touch with modern life’. In his new proposal, Gauke has called for the removal of the need for separating couples to wait for years or allocate blame for the breakdown of their relationship. His proposal has since been supported by the Labour party and was brought to final governmental consultations which closed on 10thDecember 2018.

Major law changes in no-fault divorce

Under no-fault divorce laws, couples who decide to divorce will no longer need to prove that their marriage has broken down due to a partner’s adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion. This means that neither spouse is required to prove their partner is at ‘fault’. Gauke is of the view that the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorces will hopefully animosity between partners and cause further needless battles, especially when children are involved. It is anticipated that this will in turn prevent one spouse from using the children against the other, in long winded and acrimonious Court proceedings.

These changes also include abolishing the ability to contest a divorce. This in essence means that the spouse issuing the petition will not need their spouse’s consent to progress the divorce. There will still however, be an option for a joint application for divorce, but this is not a requirement. A lot of people have carried on in an unhappy marriage, due to fear of it being contested or because of the  limitations on the grounds on which proceedings can be issued. These changes will come as a relief for many.

As well as changes to the grounds of divorce, changes to the legal framework will also make the whole process much faster. Under current divorce law, in the absence of evidence or fault, spouses must wait until they have been living separately and apart for two years before they can take steps to issue proceedings. They will still however need the consent of their spouse to be successful in such a petition, which may not always be easy, which limits them to having to rely on the fact of desertion. However, under the new proposals, these changes would only establish a minimum six-month legal timeframe to enable couples to ‘reflect’ on their decision.

No-fault divorce for parents and children

The introduction of no-fault divorce will also positively benefit parents going through divorce, where there are children involved. As Gauke states, the hostility and conflict between parents can ‘leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances’. Aidan Jones, the Chief Executive of the relationship support charity Relate also agreed with this comment,as he said the law ‘is good news for divorcing couples and particularly for any children involved’.

Indeed, at Jefferies, we understand that in any divorce situation the children should always be prioritised. It is always important to ensure the children’s well-being is protected by keeping them away from the acrimony that may be linked to the divorce.

How Jefferies can help with no-fault divorce

Any changes in the law are always picked up and proactively responded to by our specialist Solicitors within our Family Law department. We believe the no-fault divorce proceedings will be in the best interest of many spouses seeking a more harmonious and faster divorce process, and we eagerly await the reform to begin.

If you thinking about taking that step of issuing divorce proceedings or would like to discuss the reformed ‘no fault’ divorce laws, please contact our experienced divorce solicitors for guidance and advice on 01702 332 311 or contact us here.

Want to know more about how the divorce proceedings work? Take a look at our divorce FAQs for our answers about the current law and entire process.

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