“No blame” divorce now law

The most far-reaching change in divorce law in decades came into force on 6 April. The new law removes the need for one party to blame the other for marriage breakdown. Family lawyers have campaigned for years for this change, claiming that this will help people re-build their lives and protect children.

Up until 6 April this year in England and Wales, anyone who wanted to split swiftly had to accuse their partner in a divorce petition of desertion, adultery or unreasonable behaviour.  If not, they had to spend two years apart – if partners were agreeing to the split – or five years, if one party was not.

Family law experts have said that the system exacerbated problems for separating couples – making it even more difficult for them to agree over assets, finances, and the future of their children.  It also trapped people in loveless and sometimes abusive marriages as the dissenting partner controlled the one who wanted to leave.

Under the new system one partner, or both acting together, can file for divorce, without having to give a reason or apportion blame.  A statement that their marriage is over will, in most cases, be all the proof the court needs.  There is a 20-week mandatory period from when the application for divorce is issued by the court and when the conditional order can be applied for; and then a further six-week period before divorce is granted. The same no-fault rule applies to the dissolution of civil partnerships.  However, any disputes regarding children, maintenance, or the just division of wealth can still be referred to a Judge for determination.

A form of no-fault divorce already exists in Scotland – but blame rules will remain in force in Northern Ireland.  It is anticipated that many couples will have been holding off on divorce proceedings in anticipation of the change.

Whilst the new law makes obtaining a divorce more straightforward, it is still vitally important to obtain legal advice, particularly in relation to the financial settlement.  For further information please contact Family Partners Samantha Ellis or Timothy Owers on 01394 279636.



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