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9th April 2019

‘No-fault divorce’ on its way

Landmark changes to divorce law are reportedly on their way according to government officials. Head of Private Client at Thrings, Fiona Kellow, comments on the long awaited ‘no-fault divorce’ legislation, now awaiting parliamentary approval.

Image: MarketWatch

Since the recent case of Mr and Mrs Owens, in which a 68-year-old wife failed to divorce her husband of 40 years, considerable momentum has built to make the divorce process more amicable. The government has now spoken following last autumn’s public consultation on plans to introduce ‘no-fault divorce’ in the UK and Wales, revealing widespread support for the reform of what many consider to be outdated laws.

The current process allows for a “quick” divorce via two potentially contentious routes: adultery by a spouse or unreasonable behaviour. Both rely on allegations and, if to be successful, also evidence. The longer route, should one spouse not consent to the requested divorce, relies on proof of separation for a minimum period of five years. Increasingly, these options don’t sit well with many.

The new ‘no-fault’ system, which can still rely on the fact that a marriage has irretrievably broken down, however removes the need to cite examples of wrongdoing, which has been known to create unnecessary conflict. This is a huge and long-awaited shake up to the country’s divorce laws.

Some will say that the reforms will dumb down marriage and make divorce far too easy. Others will be glad to focus on the priorities of their children and resolving financial issues rather than who to blame for what. What’s clear is that the new process will include a ‘reflection’ period of six months to ensure both parties still wish to progress down the divorce route.

The Ministry of Justice today announced that the reforms will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. For Mrs Owens, this may come too late, four years into the required five years of separation – for others, just in time.

You can read more about the Owens v Owens case here.

For further information on divorce law, or to discuss a family-related matter, please contact Fiona Kellow or another member of Thrings’ Family team.

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