Divorcing without blame: What the ‘no-fault divorce’ bill will mean for divorcing couples

The ‘no-fault divorce’ bill which looks to overhaul the current antiquated legislation on divorce has now gained Royal Assent. This means that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation bill will become an official Act of Parliament i.e. new law.

Presently, in circumstances where parties have been married for a year and one party (or both parties) wish to obtain a divorce as quickly as possible they must prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down as a result of one party’s unreasonable behaviour or adultery. The alternatives require a prolonged period of separation or desertion. The immediate grounds require some form of blame to be attributed to the other party, which often unhelpfully increases the temperatures at an already stressful juncture.

The new law will eradicate any element of ‘blame’ and instead will simply require a spouse to claim that the marriage has irrevocably broken down. It even allows for a couple who has reached the mutual conclusion that their marriage has ended to do so on a joint and collaborative basis. This allows couples who have made the already difficult decision to end their marriage, to do so in a way which limits the acrimony and stigma.

Crucially, the new law on divorce also removes the possibility for a spouse to contest or defend the decision to divorce. Presently, the only option for a spouse to obtain a divorce without the consent of the other party is to live apart for a period of five years.

The Act will also require that the divorce process be given a minimum timeframe of six months before the divorce is made final. This will provide separating couples with the time to consider their options with regards to their finances and children issues, without the rancorous undercurrent of a fault-based divorce.

The government hopes that the changes introduced by the Act will come into effect in Autumn 2021. This will allow time for careful implementation of the necessary changes to court, paper and online processes.

If you are considering a divorce or require any advice about your family circumstances, please contact our office on 02920 197203.