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No fault divorce set to become law in the UK

11/02/2019 News Team

Legislation to introduce no-fault divorce in the UK is set to be introduced to parliament in the spring by Justice Minister David Gauke MP.

This reform will remove the need for separating couples to allocate blame to one of them for the end of the marriage. 

Mr Gauke launched a consultation last autumn on reforming the law and the responses received by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) showed support for the initiative. He told The Times the responses to the consultation were “overwhelmingly in support, which is why I remain as convinced as I have been for the need to reform this particular area”.

Neil Russell, partner in the family team at Seddons believes this is “what everyone has been waiting for."

“An end to the blame game, although I suspect the mischief may be in the detail. A couple would need to agree to the divorce Petition and on the end of the marriage in order to deal with it by consent. Let’s not forget that marriage is not a consumable like many others which can be discarded on a whim, and we should be wary of unnecessarily dismantling parts of the divorce process,” he added.

Jo Edwards, partner and head of family at Forsters, also welcomes the news as there is so much “unnecessary acrimony” in the current fault-based system. 

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, anyone seeking a divorce must either prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, or if both sides agree, they can part after two years of separation.

She continued: “But times have changed and the law needs to be brought into step with modern society. Divorce used to be perceived as an adversarial process, but increasingly couples wish to explore mediation. My experience is that the mediation process often risks breaking down when the very first thing the couple have to decide is who was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage,” which often negatively affects any children involved.

Despite opponents of reform arguing that this will make divorce easy and marriage disposable, Ms Edwards firmly believes it will not.

“Divorce is never easy and under the notification process proposed, some divorces will take longer than an undefended divorce does at present. The point is to make it a kinder, more neutral process, which will enable couples to divorce in a dignified way keeping the interests of any children as the focus,” she concluded.

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