No fault divorce moves closer


Changes to divorce law in England and Wales have taken a step forward. Justice Secretary, David Gauke is set to begin a consultation calling for no-fault divorce to finally be implemented.

The plans, which are yet to be finalised, will be the biggest shake up of the system in 50 years with couples being allowed to file for no-fault divorce and spouses losing the right to contest the divorce. A reduction in the time someone needs to wait is also being proposed.

At the moment, a person has to show irretrievable breakdown by proving their partner has committed adultery, or state they behaved unreasonably or prove desertion. They can also file for divorce if they have been living apart for two years and both sides agree to end the marriage. But, if the divorce is contested, there’s a wait of five years before proceedings can be started.

Under the new proposals the sole legal ground for divorce would be irretrievable breakdown and the need to specify a reason for the break-up of the marriage would be removed. Contesting the divorce would also be abolished and the time the parties need to wait before becoming entitled to a divorce would be reduced from two years to six months.

The news follows the case of Tini Owens who has been refused the right to divorce her husband until 2020 (see our newsarticle dated 6th August). Judges made the ruling after Mrs Owens, who has been married to her husband, Hugh for 40 years, was unable to prove her marriage had irretrievably broken down. Despite having had an affair and living in a different house to her husband, Mr Owens has contested the divorce because he believes his wife is “bored” and insists they still have a time to enjoy life.  

Supporters of the new legislation believe that the introduction of no fault divorce will alleviate the stress associated with divorce and relieve conflict. Opponents of the proposed legislation, however, fear that it will undermine the sanctity of marriage by enabling divorce on demand.

Russell & Russell’s family law team has solicitors who specialise in divorce. If you’d like to understand how divorce might affect your circumstances, call any of our branches and arrange to speak to a solicitor.

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