No fault divorce: Ending the ‘Blame Game’ with changes to UK divorce law

Changes in divorce law are due to come into effect from Autumn 2021 which will give couples the option to remove fault from the divorce process.

This summer, the House of Commons passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill in a move that has proven popular with family solicitors as it brings legislation surrounding divorce proceedings into the modern era. More than 30 years of campaigning has led to these changes being implemented in the UK with the bill garnering a large supportive majority among MPs.

This procedural shake-up represents a landmark shift in legal culture and helps modernise a legal discipline that has remained unchanged for half a century. No fault divorce is a relatively new legal idea which will help make the divorce process cleaner and smoother for couples by removing the need to assign blame to one party for the breakdown of the marriage.

From a societal perspective, divorce no longer carries the stigma that it once did, and the move to no fault divorce systems is a welcome one. Currently, the divorce process in England and Wales requires one spouse to get the ball rolling and start the divorce proceedings with an accusation of misconduct on the part of their spouse:

• Adultery
• Unreasonable behaviour
• Desertion
• Two years’ separation with spousal consent
• Five years’ separation without spousal consent

This system ultimately requires proof that one party is at fault, and this can have implications for relationships within the family, particularly for families with children. In cases where proof cannot be provided, couples will need to separate for two years with spousal consent or five years without consent.

This kind of separation can be hard on families especially as the costs and practicalities of running separate households and resolving financial issues can be prohibitive. By making no fault divorces a reality, the negative effects of this period of change can be minimised and issues can be resolved more amicably.

What does this mean for separating and divorcing couples?

The current systems will remain in place until the Autumn of 2021, so couples separating and divorcing before that point will be subject to the five clauses listed above in terms of assigning a blame. Once the changes come into action, however, couples will be able to apply for a divorce jointly. It will be possible to initiate divorce proceedings using an online portal which makes the process more accessible for those struggling to take the first steps.

Critics of the change in legislation fear that there will be a spike in divorce cases following the introduction of no fault dissolution, yet a minimum time frame to completion has been established which demonstrates that these changes aren’t just about providing a quick fix.

If you are looking for expert legal advice when it comes to separations and divorce proceedings, contact us for more information. We can offer assistance at any stage of the process and pride ourselves on providing a sensitive and reliable service during difficult times.

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