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MPs Approve No-Fault Divorce Ruling For England and Wales

View profile for Jill Bulteel
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The news that MPs have approved the no-fault divorce ruling will be welcomed by many legal experts, who have seen some couples left in limbo due to prevailing legislation on the matter.

However, couples seeking a no-fault divorce will have to wait until at least the autumn of 2021 before the change to current legislation takes effect. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was passed through the House of Commons this week, and it will now return to the House of Lords to consider an amendment before receiving Royal assent.

Legal bodies, including Resolution, have been campaigning for some decades for the change to be implemented in order to update what many see as an outmoded legal stance, which sees couple having to prove the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage before they can divorce.  It is hoped this shift will enable divorcing couples to approach the ending of their marriage in a less heated and a less emotionally damaging way.

The change will enable couples to petition for divorce jointly rather than being forced to apportion blame for the split. The introduction of a new minimum timeframe of six months – from petition to the marriage being ended - means this change is not likely to lead to poorly considered, quickie divorces, as some critics have feared. The new laws will also prevent people refusing a divorce if their spouse wants one.

Some concerns have been raised, notably by the Law Society, that the notice period should begin when the divorce application is received by the respondent, rather than when the divorce is applied for. This would ensure both partners are on the same page from the very beginning of the process and have time to seek the appropriate legal and financial advice.

As the law stands at the moment, the only grounds for divorce is irretrievable breakdown, and our laws also require proof 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, of course, unreasonable behaviour is subjective 

Clearly, if a couple can reach an accord the divorce process will be simpler and less costly. Bear in mind there will have to be an agreement on the division of any assets, so it makes sense to get the process onto an amicable footing. Divorce continues to be one of the most stressful life events anyone can go through and it is important to seek tailored legal advice on the matter. Our Family team is on hand to help with this.


For assistance with your family law matter contact the head of our award winning Family team, Jill Bulteel on 01443 490883 or email jill.bulteel@jcpsolicitors.co.uk.

As a Senior Practitioner, Jill has worked with clients on a number of complex and contentious family law matters. She specialises in family law, covering all aspects including divorce, financial and care proceedings, and the Children’s Act.

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