No Fault Divorce: All You Need To Know About The Latest Shake-Up Of Divorce Laws

'Out-dated' 50-year-old divorce laws are being overhauled.

Divorce laws are being overhauled in the biggest shake-up for half a century, to end a “blame game” faced by couples seeking to end their marriage.

Justice Secretary David Gauke confirmed new legislation would be introduced after a consultation revealed support for reforms of the existing fault-based system.

Currently in England and Wales, unless someone can prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to obtain a divorce without their spouse’s agreement is to live apart for five years.

The proposed new arrangements will keep “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage as the sole grounds for divorce.

But, rather than having to provide evidence relating to behaviour or separation, divorcing spouses will be required to make a statement that the marriage has broken down.

The ability of a husband or wife to contest a divorce - used in under 2% of cases - will be scrapped under the shake-up.

The existing two-stage process, in which a decree nisi is followed by a decree absolute, will be retained under the proposed new system.

It will introduce a six-month minimum period that must elapse between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.

The government is also planning to make it possible for couples to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one party to initiate the process.

Gauke said: “While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.

“So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”

Here is all you need to know about the proposed changes:

Ending the blame game

Under new laws, divorcing couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage in court.

Currently in England and Wales, unless someone can prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to obtain a divorce without their spouse’s agreement is to live apart for five years.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said this forces spouses wanting a divorce to submit evidence of a partner’s wrongdoing or years of separation. They have to do this even when the decision to split is mutual.

New process

Spouses will be able to submit a “statement of irretrievable breakdown” to apply for divorce under the new laws.

There will also be the option for a joint application for divorce. Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will remain as the sole ground for divorce.

No more contested divorces

While accounting for under 2% of the approximately 120,000 divorces triggered each year, the ability of a husband or wife to contest proceedings is being scrapped.

The MoJ said the practice is known to be misused by abusers to continue coercive and controlling behaviour.

Ministers also said that it takes both spouses to save a marriage, so allowing one to contest a divorce is of no use.

<strong>A consultation also found the current system was potentially working against any prospect of couples reconciling</strong>
A consultation also found the current system was potentially working against any prospect of couples reconciling
PA Ready News UK

Breathing space and an opportunity to turn back

A minimum time frame of six months from petition to a divorce being finalised will be introduced under the proposals.

The current two-stage legal process, currently known as decree nisi and decree absolute, will stay in place.

However, it will take a minimum of 20 weeks to go from the petition stage to decree nisi and six weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute.

What was wrong with the existing laws?

Described as “archaic” and “outdated” by campaigners advocating reform, Britain’s existing divorce laws had been shown to exacerbate conflict between divorcing couples, the MoJ said.

A consultation also found the system was potentially working against any prospect of couples reconciling.

A foremost concern was of the potential damage caused to children by undermining the relationship parents may have after divorce.

What effect might the changes have on marriage?

Justice Secretary David Gauke insisted the Government “will always uphold the institution of marriage”, but said the law should not create or increase conflict between divorcing couples.

When will the changes be introduced?

The MoJ said the new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Calls for reform intensified after a woman lost a legal battle to divorce her husband of 40 years.

<strong>Tini Owens and her husband Hugh Owens</strong>
Tini Owens and her husband Hugh Owens
Yahoo News UK

Tini Owens argued she was unhappy in her marriage, which she claimed had broken down irretrievably.

But Owens’ husband Hugh Owens did not agree to divorce, and the Supreme Court ruled against her, meaning she must remain married until 2020.

Last year, 118,000 people petitioned for divorce in England and Wales.

Parallel changes will be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership.