Long-awaited introduction of no-fault divorce welcomed by family law expert

February 27, 2019

Spouses who separate by mutal consent will soon no longer need to apportion blame to get a divorce.

A change in the law to enable no-fault divorce is finally to be introduced during the next parliamentary session.

The landmark modernisation to the law, announced by Justice Secretary David Gauke, has been welcomed as long-overdue by Danny Hudson, partner and family law solicitor at Warrington-based Watsons Solicitors.

A divorce specialist who is also a member of the Law Society Family Law Panel, Danny said: “The current law is old-fashioned and has not moved with the times.

“The fact that there has to be an element of blame unless there is at least two years’ separation can add to an often unduly stressful time.

“This news will be a welcome relief for all couples who separate by mutual consent. No longer will they have to agree to apportion blame to one side or the other, in order to secure the legal paperwork that confirms their marriage is over.”

Currently, under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, divorce can be granted only if an applicant can either prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour; or, if both partners agree, they can divorce after two years of separation.

Where one party contests the application, and there is also no evidence of fault, the applicants are forced to live apart for five years before obtaining a divorce.

A consultation by the Ministry of Justice in autumn 2018 elicited widespread support for the reform.

Danny added: “The trigger for the review was the case of Tina Owens in July 2018. The supreme court ruled that she could not divorce her husband until a peiod of five years had elapsed. That was despite the fact that Tina and her husband had been living separate lives since 2015.”

Danny advised anyone seeking advice to talk to a specialist divorce solicitor at Watsons Solicitors.

He said: “The need to prove fault is being removed. However, separating couples will still need to agree on many other complicated factors such as the division of property and other capital and pensions, not to mention the most important matter of what happens with the children.”

Watsons Solicitors specialises in family law, offering a fixed-fee divorce package, and an initial consultation free of charge, so a party can at the start of the process learn about options, without any obligation.

Founded more than 60 years ago, Watsons Solicitors specialises in wills and probate, employment law, family law, conveyancing, and personal injury.

Its experienced solicitors each hold accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

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