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Ask The Legal Expert - No-Fault Divorce Ruling Set To Take Some of The Heat Out Of Divorce

View profile for Jill Bulteel
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My husband and I have been married for 28 years - living separately for a year. I want a divorce, but my husband is opposed. I’ve noticed the media reports of a woman unable to divorce her husband and I fear being left in the same limbo state. What are my options?

The Owens Vs Owens case saw a woman who wanted to divorce her husband of 40 years unable to do so swiftly, even though they had lived separate lives for some time. Most recently, the Supreme Court dismissed ‘with reluctance’ the wife’s appeal, on the basis that she failed to prove the marriage had broken down irretrievably. However, the Justice Secretary has just announced reforms which would change this – so one side would no longer have to accuse the other of fault in order to end a marriage. These changes will go through Parliament and the new laws will include a minimum time-frame of six months from petition stage to a marriage being ended, so couples can reflect on their decision. The new laws will also prevent people refusing a divorce if their spouse wants one.

As the law stands at the moment, the only ground for divorce is this irretrievable breakdown, and our laws also require you to prove that the marriage is at an end by citing one of five facts:

  • Two years of separation. However, you will need your husband to agree and sign a specific document to confirm this
  • Five years of separation. In this case you do not need your husband’s agreement
  • Two years of desertion. This does not require agreement
  • Adultery. This does not require consent, but it is difficult to prove, so it usually requires an admission of adultery or agreement from the other party
  • Unreasonable behaviour. This does not require agreement, but as we can see from the Owens vs Owens case, unreasonable behaviour is subjective 

If the two of you can reach an accord the divorce process will be simpler. Remember – you also have to agree on the division of any assets, so it makes sense to get the process onto an amicable footing. Mediation is often helpful in supporting couples to reach compromises, and you should engage a solicitor specialising in divorce.

If your petition is based on unreasonable behaviour, and your husband ignores divorce papers, they can be personally served by a Court Bailiff or a private Process Server. If your husband refuses to complete the Acknowledgement of Service form, you can apply for Decree Nisi after seven days, relying on the Certificate of Service signed by the Process Server.

Divorce can be complex and seeking tailored advice from a legal expert is vital.

For more information, contact Jill: 01443 490880 or by email at:

For further advice, please contact our specialist Family Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 225472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671

The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.