No Fault Divorce

Posted:23rd June 2020

The end of the blame game is finally in sight!

As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. And so it has been with the legislative attempts to pass the “no fault” divorce bill which has finally been approved by the UK Parliament this month after a number of false starts.

Divorce law in the UK has largely remained static since the Matrimonial Causes Act came into force in 1973. For decades, family lawyers have campaigned and worked to reform aspects of the law which have become dated and unhelpful as the way in which we live our lives and conduct our relationships has changed.

As it stands now, unless a couple have been separated for 5 years or agree to divorce after 2 years, one party has to “blame” the other in the court papers for the breakdown of the marriage.

As a family lawyer, I see it all the time where couples simply fall out of love or the relationship runs out of steam. No hard feelings or seriously bruised egos. They behave like grown ups and just want to move on with their lives as quickly and as painlessly as possible but are left frustrated that one of them has to either admit adultery or say they’ve behaved so unreasonably that it’s intolerable for their spouse to live with them.

What’s different in the new law?

The new “no fault” legislation will enable a separating couple to file a joint petition for divorce or allow one spouse to give the court notice that they wish to divorce. Currently one person files the petition and the other responds.

Instead of having to rely on one of five facts to support the ground that a marriage has ended, spouses will simply be able to tell the court that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. No facts or explanation will be required. The new law will have a period of reflection between a petition being issued and the making of a conditional order of divorce (what is now known as a Decree Nisi). This will be for 20 weeks and during this time couples can consider their position before taking steps to finalise the divorce once a conditional order has been made.

The new law will also remove the ability to contest a divorce.

It’s expected that the new law will come into force sometime in the Autumn of 2021 providing there are no delays in the remaining stages of the legislative process.

The changes will make a huge difference to separating couples and the family lawyers advising them and has been welcomed by campaign groups and family law organisations such as Resolution who have worked tirelessly to update the law so that families can move forward in separation without the heartache of unnecessary blame.

Here at EMG, our whole team of family lawyers are members of Resolution which means we are committed to resolving the difficulties our clients face in as non confrontational a way as possible. This new legislation is fantastic news and will provide us with another tool to help our clients move on to the next stage of their lives.