Divorce Solicitors – What is a ‘no-fault’ divorce?

Apr 12, 2019

The Government have finally announced plans to reform divorce law in the UK. Following years of consultations, campaigns and frustrations for many family lawyers, these reforms are a welcome introduction. However, it is unlikely that this option will be available for a number of months, and waiting until then to divorce could cost you more money.

 What are the new laws?
As the law currently stands under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, to get divorced in the UK you would need to prove to the Courts that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, on the basis of one of five facts. These are: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, 2 years desertion, or 5 years separation. For those in situations where the marriage has simply ended due to the parties growing apart, they are forced to either write around 5 or six examples of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, or wait.

 It is never nice for anybody to read a list of reasons why they are behaving unreasonably, and particularly not at a time where parties are typically vulnerable. The campaigns for this ‘blame game’ to stop have been ramping up in recent years. Finally the Government have answered those campaigns and are looking to bring the laws in England and Wales in line with other European countries who scrapped the idea of ‘fault’ in divorce years ago.

 The new laws will allow for petitioners in divorce applications to simply make a statement that the marriage has broken down, without the need to provide evidence about behaviour or separation. There will also be an introduction of joint petitions, where both parties can make a joint application.

 The new laws also scrap the ability for a party to contest a divorce. This will put an end to outdated ideas of marriage which are shown in cases such as Owens v Owens, where one party becomes trapped in a marriage they feel is over.

 Crucially, however, the new laws will introduce a minimum timeframe of six months from petition stage to a marriage being ended, which is supposed to give couples time to reflect on their decision to petition for divorce.

 Should I wait for the new rules to come in before petitioning?
There are a number of factors we recommend parties consider when issuing for a divorce. In many situations, the idea of having to blame the other party in order to get a divorce is unbearable and people may choose to wait until they have lived separately for two years and petition on the basis of two years separation. In these cases, it is likely that waiting until the new rules are entirely practical and are the best option for those individuals.

However, it is important to note that the length of a marriage can have an impact on the financial settlement that is reached. Therefore, in some cases, waiting for the new rules (plus the introduction of the minimum 6 month rule) could be costly.

Finally, it is not certain when these new rules will be introduced. The Government plans to introduce them “as soon as parliamentary time allows” – whenever that may be! Rumours are, the Government are a little pre-occupied at the moment.

If you are considering a divorce and would like some advice on whether or not to wait for the new rules to come in, please contact the secretary for the family department to arrange a consultation with one of our family law specialists for half an hour at a fixed fee of £125 plus VAT, or an hour at a fixed fee of £200 plus VAT. 

 This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.







By Helen Lafferty

Trainee Solicitor
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