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Changes to divorce law in the UK could be on their way – ‘No-fault’ divorce could be introduced

Family Law

Justice Secretary, David Gauke recently announced that the government will examine the case for reforming divorce laws that force couples into damaging and false allegations of blame, a move that will be welcomed by many who have been calling for the divorce law in England and Wales to be modernised.  

The current divorce law in England and Wales, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, is 46 years old and has been deemed by some as unfit for purpose and damaging to couples and children. Last year, 110,000 couples in England and Wales divorced.

Under the current law, those seeking a divorce must either prove:

• Their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour;
• If both sides agree, they can part after two years of separation;
• In the absence of both parties agreeing or evidence of fault, applicants must have been living apart for five years before applying for divorce.

Gauke confirmed on 8th February 2019 that he will look to bring in legislation to enact reform to the law with ‘no-fault’ divorces, removing the need for separating couples to allocate blame for the collapse of the marriage, or wait for the relevant number of years.

A consultation was launched by Gauke in September 2018 on reforming the law with widespread support received from the Ministry of Justice. This came after the Tini Owens divorce case hit the headlines that summer with the Supreme Court ruling she could not divorce her husband of 40 years due to her being unhappy in their marriage and must wait until five years had passed.

The proposed law change, which has been supported by the Labour party, was introduced in 1996 under the Family Law Act but it was repealed as its provisions were deemed unworkable.

Kamal Vasdev, a Solicitor in the Family Law department at stevensdrake, said:  “Our current divorce system is simply unsatisfactory. The requirement for one party to apportion blame to another does nothing but make a situation more unnecessarily emotional from the start. More often than not, this can lead to a costly, hostile and delayed resolution of the child arrangements and the financial matters arising from the divorce”  

The family law team at stevensdrake can assist with divorces, nullity proceedings, and dissolution of civil partnerships from start to finish at reasonable cost. Visit our family law page for more information and to read some frequently asked questions.

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