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Couples facing divorce will no longer have to point the finger to allocate blame in order to end their marriage.

In England and Wales, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides that couples wishing to divorce must prove that their marriage has broken down irretrievably, due to their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour (the most commonly used ground), or through their adultery or desertion. Alternatively, if the couple are agreeable, then they are able to divorce after two years of being separated. If the couple are not in agreement and cannot prove fault, they must wait until they have been living apart for five years before they can issue divorce proceedings.

Helen Thewlis, Head of Family at Ramsdens commented: “Having to prove blame encourages hostility and often only serves to worsen an already strained relationship between the parties.

The demand for change became apparent particularly after the recent Tini Owens case. In this case, despite living separate lives since 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Owens could not divorce her husband until they had lived separately for 5 years, which sparked outrage. (Read our blog here)

The law has remained unchanged for almost 50 years and so this change is very much welcomed!”

The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, believes that current divorce laws are “out of touch with modern life” and that “the blame game that currently exists helps nobody.” Ministers have vowed that no fault divorces will be introduced as soon as possible, in order to reduce the conflict between separating couples and the harm this causes their children.

Mr Gauke has confirmed he wants to act “as quickly as possible” and has recently confirmed that he will enact legislation in the next Parliamentary session, which will see the end of couples having to prove fault in order to obtain a divorce.

The proposed legislative changes include:

  • Making “the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage” the sole ground for divorce
  • Removing the need to live apart, or provide proof of the spouse’s misconduct
  • A new Court notification process that can be triggered by one or both parties
  • Removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce

At Ramsdens, we believe in a non-confrontational approach and we support the no fault divorce reform. If you would like further advice, contact our Family team on 08000 147720 to book your free consultation at any of our 14 offices across Yorkshire. We also offer early morning and late evening appointments across all offices to suit you.