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13th January 2020

Government introduces no-fault divorce reforms

Thrings’ Fiona Kellow assesses the new Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill.

The Government has brought in new legislation which removes the need for divorcing couples to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage.

The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill – introduced to the House of Lords last week following two readings in the House of Commons – has been described as one of the biggest shake-ups of divorce laws for more than 50 years.

The introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce means couples will no longer have to provide evidence of blame for the collapse of their marriage, and will, instead, be able to cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the reason for their wanting to separate.

Current law requires people seeking divorce to give evidence of one or more of five facts: adultery; behaviour; desertion; two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce); and five years’ separation (otherwise).

The changes are also designed to reduce the emotional impact on children whose parents are going through the divorce process.

The Government claims the legislation will “overhaul divorce law and reduce family conflict”.

Robert Buckland MP, secretary of state for justice, said: “The institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing.

“Our reforms will stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another and instead help them focus on separating amicably. By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”

Fiona Kellow, head of Thrings’ Private Client department, comments: “With the previous fault-based law having been in place since the early ’70s, the introduction of the Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill is long overdue.

“At the time of a marriage breakdown, couples have plenty to think about, such as what will happen to the children and how finances will be split. Removing the layer of stress caused by having to go into the detail about behaviour issues or adultery means there are fewer issues in contention and the focus is where it needs to be.”

For further information about the Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill, or to discuss any divorce-related matter, please contact Fiona Kellow or another member of Thrings’ Family team.

You can also download ‘A guide to your first meeting with our Family team’ here.

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