MP’s back ‘No Fault’ Divorce Bill

Couples wishing to divorce will be able to apply for a no-fault divorce under The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, due to come into force in Autumn 2021. This bill allows couples to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, without placing blame on either party, paving the way for a more amicable divorce. Couples can also apply jointly for a divorce when the decision to separate is a mutual one.

Under current law, one spouse must allege adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, or have lived apart for a minimum of five years for a divorce to be granted. This ‘blame game’ has been attributed to making divorce less amiable, which can have an impact on the tone of the rest of the proceedings. Under the proposed law the couple need only to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, placing no blame on either party.

The bill, which comfortably passed the House of Commons vote by 231 to 16 on 8th June, also prevents one spouse from stopping the divorce (except in cases of fraud or coercion). This follows the high profile case of Tini Owens in 2008, who was prevented from obtaining a divorce because her husband contested the split. Under the new bill a divorce can go ahead, with no particular reason given, even if one spouse does not wish to proceed.

This progress has been welcomed by family lawyers who are largely delighted to see this bill passed through the Commons. The Law Society stated that ‘no-fault’ divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century. In addition, lawyers will be better able to support couples to resolve matters in the most amicable and constructive ways, minimising the impact on any children involved.

The bill is expected to be passed from the house of Lords to Royal assent within days, however will not come into effect for some time. Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has told MPs that this is to allow ‘for careful implementation’. He said: ‘At this early stage, we are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021.’

If you are considering separation or divorce you can book an appointment with one of our specialist family law team for a free 30-minute consultation. We will be able to provide you with important advice and support you when you need it most. Contact us here.