New 'no fault' divorce
29th April 2019
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Legislation to implement the new no-fault divorce process will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Amendment to the existing divorce laws in England and Wales would provide a six-month timeframe to enable couples to reflect on their decision and also abolish the ability to contest a divorce.

The Ministry of Justice issued a consultation on its plans in September 2018. The consultation closed in December 2018. In April 2019 the government published its response to the consultation and confirmed that it would go ahead with the planned changes by introducing new legislation.

Following reform, a couple or one party would only need to notify the court that their marriage has irretreivably broken down. The ‘five facts’ would be removed:

  • adultery
  • behaviour that makes continuing to live together unreasonable
  • desertion
  • separation of more than two years (if spouse agrees to the divorce)
  • separation of at least five years (if spouse disagrees with the divorce).

The government also plans to:

  • allow couples to give notice jointly
  • allow joint applications to become sole applications (and vice versa)
  • remove the ability for one person to contest a divorce
  • retain the two stage process of decree nisi and decree absolute
  • introduce a minimum timeframe of six months from petition to decree absolute
  • modernise the language used in the divorce process.

These changes would also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

The new legislation, would extend the grounds for divorce while retaining the concept of 'irretrievable breakdown'. 

David Gauke, who announced the change, said: "hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances."

After publicity over Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41, where the supreme court ruled that Tini Owens could not divorce her husband until a period of five years had elapsed - the new process would remove the respondent's ability to resist a divorce.

Aidan Jones, the chief executive of the relationship support charity Relate, said: "this much-needed change to the law is good news for divorcing couples and particularly for any children involved. The apportionment of blame in the current system, often results in increased animosity and makes it harder to maintain a positive relationship for co-parenting.

Records show that out of every five divorce petitions lodged over the last three years, almost three rely on conduct and two on separation facts. In 2018, 118000, petitioned for divorce in England and Wales.

For further information on any of the issues raised above, or to discuss your case in detail, please contact, Aarti Mann at Ian Henery Solicitors on 01902 366 615.

About the Author

Aarti is a specialist family and children solicitor practising at Ian Henery Solicitors Ltd in Willenhall. Aarti is extremely passionate about her role as a lawyer. She cares about each and every client...

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