Anyone seeking a divorce under the present law must prove that their partner is at fault through adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the only alternative is to wait until separation has been for a period of two years, at which time you require your partner’s consent to the divorce. In the absence of consent or evidence of fault, you must wait until you’ve been separated for five years.
Change has been long awaited. Having to place and prove blame often results in unpleasant court battles, extensive legal costs and makes worse a relationship that has already broken down. Such couples usually have to go on and try and resolve financial separation and child arrangements, having started off on a bad note.
The Family Law Act 1996 first introduced provisions for a ‘No Fault Divorce’, but they were later repealed having been considered ‘unworkable and flawed’. Since then divorce reform has been placed on the back burner.
However, the demand for change grew following the result of Owens v Owens where the wife, Tini Owens lost her battle for divorce in the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in July 2018 that her husband’s behaviour was not considered to be unreasonable, leaving her trapped ‘in a loveless marriage’, as she described it.
Since then Justice Secretary, David Gaulke has launched a consultation for the reform of the present law on divorce, which concluded in December 2018. He confirmed that the consultation has shown overwhelming support and that he would be looking to introduce a Bill to parliament in the coming months.
Changes to the present law are likely to include that divorcing couples need not provide reasons to the court for wanting a divorce. There might also be a requirement that a party need only provide the other with notice of the divorce, rather than requiring their consent to it.
If you require advice in relation to divorce, financial separation and/or child arrangements, contact a member of our specialist family law team on 0845 287 0939 or contact us through our online enquiry form.