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No need to point fingers as Government reforms divorce laws

View profile for Wendy Armstrong
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Divorce laws in England and Wales are finally set to change after the Government has announced plans to reform the traditional fault-based system by implementing a new ‘faultless’ regime.

Under the current rules, couples must prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down evidenced by at least one of five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, 2 years separation by consent or 5 years separation with or without consent).

This means that, under current laws, couples wishing to pursue divorce immediately must do so on the basis of one party’s ‘fault’ (adultery or unreasonable behaviour), the alternative being that they wait a period of at least 2 years before making an application.

On Tuesday 9th April 2019 the Government finally announced that they are prepared to change the status quo in favour of a less contentious approach. The intention is to maintain the concept of irretrievable breakdown without the obligation of proving one of the five facts and instead requiring couples to simply set out the reasons why they wish to pursue a divorce.

The new legislation will make way for joint applications, providing couples with a way to end their marriage on mutually agreeable terms. 

There will be a minimum timeframe of six months between an initial divorce application being made and any Decree Absolute (the formal ending of the marriage) being granted. At present, there is no strict timescale in place except that Decree Absolute cannemiot not be granted before a 6 week and 1 day period following the Court having pronounced Decree Nisi (when the Court is satisfied that a person is entitled to a divorce).

The 6-month period required by new legislation is intended to give couples the opportunity to fully consider their decision to divorce, ensuring no rash decisions are made.

The abolishment of fault-based divorce is not only a move towards respecting the personal autonomy of couples but can also be viewed to be in the best interests of the family unit, particularly children.

The current system of apportioning ‘blame’ has notoriously caused strain between couples attempting to maintain amicable relations during initial separation. It is hoped that this new regime will relieve some of these strains.

These changes will be implemented by parliament as soon as time allows.

If you would like any more information in relation to this article or you have a family issue that you would like to discuss, please get in touch with BakerLaw’s family team to book an initial half hour no obligation consultation.


This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.