The ‘blame game’ is likely to end this autumn with the long-awaited No-Fault Divorce being implemented.

What is the law now relating to divorce?

Presently, spouses have to prove to the Court that a marriage has broken down irretrievably in order to get a divorce. In doing so the person applying for the divorce must rely on one of the following facts:

  • The other person’s adultery, and that they find it intolerable to live with them as a result

  • The other person’s unreasonable behaviour

  • After the other person has deserted them 2 years

  • They have lived separate and apart for 2 years, and the other party consents to it

  • They have lived separate and apart for 5 years, which does not require the other party’s consent.

In a nutshell, you must either wait a number of years to divorce or assign blame.

When did the law change?

The law changed last year with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.  It is however yet to be implemented.

Change has been a long time coming, with the first rumblings made in 1996 when the Family Law Act came into being. It has been established that by having to put down in black and white the reasons why a spouse was to blame for the end of a marriage was damaging. It creates unnecessary antagonism and anxiety when divorcing couples still have to go on to try and achieve financial separation and co parent their children.

In 2018, Tini Owens famously failed to secure a divorce, having applied to the court to try and establish that her husband had behaved in such a way that she could no longer reasonably be expected to live him. Whilst it was seen that the court had applied the law correctly in reaching its decision, it was felt that the government’s reaction to the outcome of the case was justified. The then Justice Secretary David Gauke said that the current law on divorce was ‘out of touch with modern life’ and that ‘the blame game that currently exists helps nobody’.

It is hoped that removing the need to establish wrong doing will help focus efforts on reaching a resolution in relation to financial separation, and help avoid unnecessary conflict when trying to agree child arrangements.

How is it different?

  • The sole ground for divorce remains in that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

  • There is no longer a requirement for one of five grounds to be established.

  • Spouses and partners can make a joint application for divorce. It also provides that one party may make the application.

  • It removes the ability to defend/contest a divorce.

  • The 6-week period between the pronouncement of a Conditional Order (known presently as Decree Nisi) and the Final Order (known presently as Decree Absolute) remains.

  • There will be a minimum 20-week period from the time of applying for the divorce before the applicant may apply for a Conditional Order.

There is a suggestion that the no-fault divorce will come into effect some time in autumn of this year.

Should I wait?

Whilst a no-fault divorce might remove the need to apportion blame, there may be other important reasons which affect the timing of an application for divorce. It is important to take legal advice in order to make an informed decision.

If you require advice in relation to divorce, financial separation, child arrangements or any family law related matter contact our experienced team at Farleys on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry by email.