What could happen in respect to no-fault divorce law?

Talks have been initiated within the Ministry of Justice around the reform of divorce law – specifically no-fault divorce law. The implementation of this new legislation would enable a couple to separate lawfully without placing blame on one member of the partnership. Currently if you wish to have a divorce you must sight reasonable grounds or place blame. But what is there is no fault on the side of any party, what if they have simply fallen out of love?

As the law currently stands, reasonable grounds for divorce include:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years of separation with consent
  5. Five years of separation without consent

There are several reasons to want a divorce and not all of them fit neatly into the five grounds outlined above. In these situations, they can become even more complex which only adds to the emotional effects of such procedures.

Indeed, divorce can be a life-changing experience for all involved and not just for couple themselves. Studies show that a poorly handled divorce can have a detrimental impact on the children of divorced parents as well as their immediate family and friends.

Apportioning blame is one of the top reasons for this and since 1996, there have been 1.7 million people who have assigned blame in the divorce process. Yet many of these divorces could have been friendlier and more common ground with a no-fault option. This is what the new legislation is seeking to address and ministers have pledged that no-fault divorces will be introduced imminently.

So, where did this reform talk stem from?

In July 2018, there was a highly publicised case that bent the public’s ear and vibrated empathy through the legal world. Tini Owens, a 68-year-old Worcestershire woman requested a divorce from her husband of 40 years, taking it as far as the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, her husband refused to consent to the divorce. The result: forcing her to remain married until 2020 when she can claim the divorce based on point four of the reasonable grounds listed above.

This case plucked at the heart strings of many and started an ethical debate around adequate grounds for divorce. Ask your average person and they will most likely agree that a ‘joyless marriage’ is a good enough reason for a permanent separation, but not in the eyes of the law.

What else could come from the reform?

The Ministers will be discussing “irretrievable breakdown of a marriage” as sole grounds for a divorce. They will consider removing the need to live apart or the need to provide evidence of a partner’s misconduct. Talks could go as far as removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application. This could see great progress and modernisation of UK divorce law.

On the topic Christina Blacklaws, the president of the Law Society said:

“It’s time to bring this law into the 21st century to reflect the society we live in and we look forward to working with government to ensure the reforms are fit for purpose.”

If you are going through a divorce and are seeking representation, please get in touch with our expert team at Lysander Law today.