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The Justice Secretary, David Gauke has announced plans to introduce no fault divorce. It has been reported that he is preparing a consultation on reforming the current divorce law which is over 40 years old!

The current divorce law

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The person filing for the divorce, the Petitioner, must establish the marriage has broken down irretrievably by proving one or more of the following 5 facts:-

a) that the respondent (the person receiving the petition) has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;

b) that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;

c) that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition;

d) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition and the respondent consents to a divorce on that basis;

e) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition (the respondent’s consent is not required).

A step towards a no fault divorce?

The Justice Secretary’s plans (set out in a consultation which runs until the 10th December 2018) are to remove the need for couples to have been separated or to include allegations of ‘fault’ or ‘unreasonable behaviour’ in the divorce petition. It has been reported that instead, there would be a new divorce process where one (or possibly both parties) can notify the Court of their intention to start divorce proceedings stating that they believe the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Helen Thewlis, Partner and Head of Family Law commented: "This is a significant step forward towards modern and updated divorce law which hopefully, if passed, will avoid parties alleging ‘fault’ or ‘unreasonable behaviour’ potentially causing unnecessary acrimony between them.

"Following, the recent case of Owens v Owens [2018] which highlighted the need for a no fault divorce system, we hope that progress can be made in terms of a reform of the current divorce law and which will end the “blame game”."

At Ramsdens, we are accredited members of Resolution and expert family law specialists. If you would like more information on the issues raised in this article or any aspect of Family Law please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly family law team to arrange a free 30 minute consultation. Call us free on 08000 147720, send us an email or text LAW to 67777 to book a free information session at any of our offices. We also offer early morning and late evening appointments across our offices.