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Government set to introduce ‘no fault divorce’

Current Rules

Currently, in England and Wales there are five official grounds for petitioning for divorce. Three of the grounds involve attributing blame to one of the parties. This allows divorce proceedings to begin immediately.

These three grounds are as follows: –

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Desertion

The other two, which do not involve blame take longer: where the parties have been separated for two years and consent to the divorce or where the parties have been separated for five years which does not require consent.

What is a no-fault divorce?

The justice secretary confirmed that he will bring in legislation for a no-fault divorce removing the need for separating couples to wait for years or allocate blame for the breakdown of their relationship. Laws providing for a no-fault divorce will allow a family court to grant a divorce in response to a petition by either party of the marriage without requiring the parties to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage which often causes conflict between the parties.

Proposed Changes

The government proposes to remove the ability of one of the spouses to contest a divorce in court which they hope will help prevent abusive partners from making the process more difficult. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage will be retained as the sole ground for the divorce but the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ will be replaced with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The two-stage legal process of decree nisi and decree absolute will be retained to ensure that the parties have time to consider their decision. There is also a suggestion of a minimum timeframe of six months from petitioning for divorce through to the final stage.

Sweeney Miller’s family lawyer Rebecca Cresswell says “this is a welcome change to family law and I hope that it will help couples reach an amicable settlement for both them and their children”.

If you wish to begin divorce proceedings, or know someone who does, who is seeking advice on what options are next, feel free to contact Sweeney Miller Law’s expert team of specialists.

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