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Long awaited reforms could signal 'no fault' divorce

Last week the government signalled the long-awaited reform of divorce laws by potentially removing the element of ‘fault’.

The Justice Secretary confirmed his intention that couples wanting to divorce should benefit from a less confrontational process under proposals which are now the subject of consultation.  Under the proposals, a new process will allow someone to notify the court of their intention to divorce, whilst removing the opportunity for their spouse to contest it. 

Other proposals include:

  • retaining the sole ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage
  • removing the need to show evidence of the partners conduct, or a period of living apart

The consultation process also seeks views on the minimum timeframe between the interim decree of divorce (decree nisi) and final decree of divorce (decree absolute). The timeframe is designed to allow couples ‘time to reflect’ on their decision to divorce and to reach agreement on arrangements for the future where divorce is inevitable. 

The current law forces divorcing couples to blame each other for the marriage breakdown on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, adultery or desertion, or to prove they have been living apart for a minimum of two years, even if the separation is mutual. Currently, if the divorce is contested and a spouse cannot prove ‘fault’, couples have to wait five years before being granted a divorce. 

The consultation closes on 10 December 2018.

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