Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has confirmed that he will legislate to introduce an option for no-fault divorce in the next Parliamentary session.
At present, couples can only seek an immediate divorce for reasons that apportion blame for the breakdown of the relationship. Otherwise, the couple must be separated for either two or five years, depending on whether the other partner agrees to the divorce.
The Government consulted on the change in autumn 2018 and received responses indicating widespread support for no-fault divorce.
Family lawyers have been campaigning for years for a no-fault divorce option to be introduced and Mr Gauke’s comments, first published in The Times, appear to confirm that the Government intends to now reform the law.
The case of Tini Owens, whose husband successfully contested her divorce petition, further catalysed the campaign last year. She appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that as the law stands she could not divorce until five years separation has elapsed.
Further details of the new no-fault divorce process are expected to be published later in the year.
Surjit Verdi, a Partner with Palmers, who specialises in family law, said: “These comments by the Justice Secretary are welcome news as it will mean that, finally, divorcing couples will no longer be expected to apportion blame.
“Particularly in instances where two people have grown apart and wish to divorce but still remain friends, an amicable outcome is preferable but in this regard, the law has hindered rather than helped the process.
“As yet no date has been given for no fault divorce legislation to be passed onto the statute books.
“In the interim, the best way to mitigate the risk of a fault-based reason for divorce leading to acrimony is for couples to sit down together to discuss the process.
“While it is not always possible for a couple whose marriage has broken down to do so, effective and sensitive communication really is key and can help prevent the process from becoming riddled with acrimony and argument. This is especially important where children are involved,” added Surjit.
Our expert family law team specialise in advising on all aspects of divorce, the dissolution of civil partnerships and cohabitation agreements. To find out how we can help, please contact us.