Parliamentary time is currently being sought to debate a system of 'no-fault divorce'.

The present law provides for parties to allege either adultery or unreasonable behaviour to start the divorce process moving immediately. Otherwise, those trapped in an unhappy marriage must wait at least 2 years and possibly up to 5 years until they can apply to dissolve their marriage.

The new reform will allow a spouse to petition for divorce on the grounds that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. The reforms will also banish the ability for one spouse to contest a divorce by challenging the blame attributed to them. The process to Decree Absolute application will take a minimum of 6 months and will allow parties to jointly apply for a divorce where the decision is mutually accepted.

In support of the changes, the Justice Secretary has said: “Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.

We are not going to keep marriages together by having a divorce process that just makes it more acrimonious [and] tries to apportion blame in such a way that the couple are likely to have a weaker, poorer relationship subsequently than they would otherwise do.While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.

"So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”

Those partners within a civil partnership will also have the same rights when applying for a civil partnership dissolution.

The case of Tini and Hugh Owens reached the Supreme Court in July 2018. Tini had applied for a divorce on the grounds of Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour.

The Court concluded that Mrs Owens had not sufficiently demonstrated how Mr Owens’ behaviour had been so unreasonable.

The current law would have made her wait until 2020 to apply again on the basis of a 5 year separation.

The new reforms will seek to protect those who are trapped in a loveless marriage to end it quicker and show a general move in the family justice system to resolve issues in a less confrontational way and seek to promote a less hostile way of managing difficult personal circumstances.

At Lupton Fawcett, we appreciate and understand the need for parties to engage in an amicable separation, particularly where children are to be co-parented. We welcome the long awaited changes and are happy to provide you with the advice and assistance necessary to enable you to make autonomous decision-making about your relationship.

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