The government could be on the verge of introducing no fault divorce in England and Wales, according to recent reports.
Justice Secretary David Gauke will announce a consultation on no fault divorce in the coming months, with a view to abolishing the current system where someone petitioning for divorce must show their marriage has permanently broken down by placing blame on their spouse.
It is also claimed that the government is looking at limiting people’s ability to contest a divorce started by their spouse and imposing a maximum time limit for divorce proceedings of six months.
This news comes in the wake of the landmark Owens vs Owens divorce case, that saw Tini Owens fail in her bid to have her divorce granted by the Supreme Court after her husband successfully contested the divorce in the lower courts.
While the news comes from an anonymous government source and the Ministry of Justice has declined to comment officially on the story, it can be seen as a hopeful sign that divorce law in England and Wales could finally be about to see a long-awaited overhaul.
How divorces work under current English law
To get divorced in England or Wales right now, the person petitioning for divorce needs to show that their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. The divorce petition will need to explain exactly why this has occurred, giving one of the following five accepted reasons:
Adultery – where your spouse has been unfaithful with someone of the opposite sex (same-sex infidelity is currently classed as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ instead).
Unreasonable behaviour – meaning you feel you can no longer reasonably be expected to live with your spouse. Examples of unreasonable behaviour include your spouse being a workaholic, spending too much time out with friends or refusing to contribute financially, as well as much more serious issues, such as alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence.
Desertion – where your spouse has left you without your agreement, without a good explanation and with the intention to end your relationship for at least 2 years out of the last 2.5.
Separation for at least 2 years – where you and your spouse have lived separate lives (usually meaning living under different roofs) for 2 years or more and your spouse agrees to the divorce.
Separation for at least 5 years – where you and your spouse have lived separate lives for 5 years or more, whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not.
Why current English divorce law causes unnecessary conflict
The problem is that, unless you are willing to wait at least 2 years to start divorce proceedings, one of you will need to ‘take the blame’ for the failure of the marriage. This means that even if both spouses are happy for the marriage to end, one spouse will need to be painted as the victim and other the ‘guilty’ party.
Understandably, this can create unwanted tension and conflict, especially where neither party considers themselves to have been mainly responsible for the failure of the marriage.
Introducing no fault divorce would mean that, as the name implies, there is no need to place fault on either party for the failure of the marriage. This would potentially allow divorces to move much faster and with less conflict. It would also take away the risk of the divorce being contested as one spouse considering the marriage to have failed would be considered sufficient proof that it had, irrespective of whether the other spouse agrees.
When will no fault divorce be introduced in England and Wales?
With no official confirmation from the Ministry of Justice that the consultation is happening or when, there is no way to know exactly when no fault divorces may start being available.
In reality, it is likely to be several years before any change to English divorce law becomes official, so for the time being couples will need to continue assigning blame when they wish to end their marriage.
Crisp & Co’s divorce lawyers specialise in non-confrontational divorce, helping to remove as much conflict as possible from the process of ending your marriage.
Our experience in mediation and collaborative law mean we can help you handle the entire divorce process – including financial settlements and arrangements for children – in an amicable way. This approach can make divorce much easier on you and your family while ensuring your interests and those of your loved ones are protected at all times.
To find out more, speak to one of our expert divorce lawyers now by calling 020 3797 4952 or use the enquiry form below to request a call back.