no fault divorce

No Fault Divorce to Become Law

The Government Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has confirmed legislation will be introduced in the next session of Parliament to reform divorce Law by bringing in “No Fault” divorce.

Under the existing Law as set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 it is necessary to show the marriage has irretrievably broken down by proving one of five grounds.  Where spouses are separated for two years, and agree, or are apart for five years (when consent is not required) they can obtain a divorce.  However, in the absence of these periods of separation one partner must prove to the Court that the other partner has committed adultery, or behaved unreasonably, or deserted the other for a period of two years.

We as solicitors will advise clients when dealing with a marital breakdown that it is always preferable to try and agree the ground on which the Divorce should take place so that if a Petition on the basis of unreasonable behaviour is issued it is not going to contain allegations of behaviour which are going to be distressing or upsetting to the other party.  However, the recent case of Owens-v-Owens decided by the Supreme Court in July 2018 showed that if a Petition does not contain adequate details of unreasonable behaviour as required by the current Law and it is opposed by the other party the Divorce can fail.  In that case Mrs Owens’ Petition for unreasonable behaviour was dismissed by the Court.

The reform that has been announced by Mr Gauke must therefore be welcomed as it should do away with one party having to put together a Petition containing either allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour against the other. Divorce can clearly be a difficult process and this reform should help, hopefully, to remove some of the antagonism that arises when the parties are trying to agree on how the divorce proceeds.  It should also result in savings in costs as drafting the Divorce Petition should no longer require allegations of behaviour or adultery to be included.

We therefore welcome this reform in principle and wait to see the new proposed legislation and how that will work.

For a confidential discussion about family law matters please contact Simon Brown or our Family Law Team on 01892 526344

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.