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No Fault Divorces

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What is a no-fault divorce?

January and the aftermath of the festive season can, unfortunately, be a peak time for divorce petitions. And there’s arguably more interest than usual this year. That's because the government has now completed a consultation, launched last year, which could see 'no-fault' divorces being introduced in the UK.

The move followed a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Owens vs. Owens. That judgement said that Tini Owens had to stay married to her spouse until 2020, following his refusal to grant her a divorce. Lawyers couldn’t supply strong enough evidence their marriage had broken down on the grounds of his adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

In numerous other cases, couples are realising that arguing over blame for a marital breakdown means everything takes longer and becomes more expensive. A no-fault divorce can really take some of the emotional heat out of the process, allowing estranged spouses to get on with the more practical aspects of their split. These might include child custody and financial arrangements.

What does the law say now?

As things stand, if a married couple wants to go their separate ways formally with a divorce, they have to prove their marriage has irretrievably broken down, using one of five facts.

These include:

• Unreasonable behaviour

• Adultery

• Desertion

• Two years’ consented separation

• Five years’ separation (no consent needed)

(Unfortunately, those who choose to wait for either two or five years’ separation can’t ask the court to make an order recording financial arrangements, providing them with certainty moving forwards until a Decree Nisi of the divorce is granted. This is sometimes only many months after the petition is issued.)

So, essentially, one party has to be ‘at fault’ when a marriage ends. This ups the emotional ante from the outset, in what is likely to be an already highly emotional process. These feelings can easily spill over into the more practical aspects of a family split.

However a no-fault divorce could help minimise the long-term financial and psychological aspects of formal separation for everyone involved.

Additionally, to divorce within the first two years, the parties currently have to rely on a fact of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This often causes unnecessary animosity between former partners when they would prefer to work together in resolving issues arising out of their separation.

Our view – and how we can help

As members of the family law initiative Resolution, which campaigns for improvements in the law, we believe in a constructive and non-confrontational approach. We welcome the proposed introduction of no-fault divorces as a way of making a tough process less fraught.

At Chattertons Solicitors & Wealth Management, we can help steer you through the inevitably difficult process of separation and divorce, as well as civil partnership dissolution. We’re determined to secure a fair outcome for our clients while handling all cases sensitively.

If you require any information on formalising your separation by way of divorce please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can contact Joanne Chidlow at the Sleaford office on 01529 411500, or email