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No fault divorce - urgent need for reform

No fault divorce - urgent need for reform

It has become increasingly apparent that divorce laws in England and Wales urgently need reform and this need for reform has been highlighted in the recent case of Owens and Owens which has been widely reported in the press.

Under the current law to obtain a divorce couples are legally required to assign blame for the relationship breakdown unless they have lived apart for more than two years. The current law requires that blame be assigned either for unreasonable behaviour or by alleging that the other party has committed adultery. This requirement to assign blame makes an amicable agreement between the couple more difficult and of course can have a negative impact on any children of the family.

Many couples are shocked when they find out that unless they blame their partner for the breakdown of the marriage they must wait two years for a divorce. Apportioning blame can bring out feelings of injustice and recrimination between the parties at a time when emotions are already likely to be running high and evidence shows that apportioning blame can also affect parents ability to put their children first.

There are in England and Wales over 100,000 divorces each year and some 95,000 children were affected by divorce in 2013.

In 2015 60% of divorces in England and Wales were granted either on the grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Erica Kemp, Member and Head of family Department at Alsters Kelley solicitors supports the many calls for changes to the current legislation to allow for no-fault divorce.

Commenting she says, “Many countries around the world including Australia, the USA and Spain already allow divorce without blame. It is felt that the introduction of such a change in England and Wales will increase the chances of divorcing couples being able to reach amicable agreements without court intervention. This will have the added benefit of reducing the burden on family courts which are currently significantly overstretched.”

Resolution (a national organisation of family justice professionals that promotes constructive approach to family breakdown in the interests of the whole family and particular in the best interest of the children) supports a proposal that there be a change to the divorce procedure so that one or both partners can just give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and the divorce can then proceed. It further proposes that if after six months after the divorce has commenced one or both parties would still like to proceed the divorce at will then be finalised.

Erica agrees that such a change would be beneficial to the families of separating couples in England and Wales

In the intervening period until such time as a change in legislation can be implemented parties who are seeking to divorce should consider instructing Resolution trained lawyers who will support individuals to  resolve issues in a constructive way notwithstanding the requirements of the current divorce legislation.

If you would like any help or advice regarding family and relationship breakdown and would like to talk to a Resolution trained lawyer then please call Erica Kemp on 01926 356048 or email


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