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No fault divorce is coming…

There are changes afoot in divorce law.  Following the case of Owens in July last year, the government has vowed to introduce new legislation for a no-fault divorce as soon as parliamentary time becomes available.

The current divorce law is set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and so is 26 years old.

Under the existing divorce law one spouse has to claim that the divorce is the “fault” of the other or the parties must remain married until they have lived apart for either two years and divorced by consent, or lived apart for five years.

There is no “quickie” divorce and parties cannot currently divorce based on “irreconcilable differences”.

The proposed new law promises to introduce legislation for no fault divorce to end the blame game between couples. The proposed changes will also apply to same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.

However there is a mistaken belief that these changes have already come into effect. They have not.

As yet we do not know the exact requirements of the proposed new law and we have no idea of a timescale when the details of the new law will become available.

Research by University College London indicates that children of divorced parents  are at risk of developing particular emotional, social and behavioural issues that can persist, or first appear, years after the marital breakdown.

Experts do think that having a no-fault divorce option will benefit the children of those divorcing couples.

Under the new proposals there would be a minimum period of six months for couples to “reflect”  before the marriage is dissolved. Couples do need to be aware, however, that it is very unlikely that issues relating to finances and children will be resolved within the same six-month period.

Currently, divorcing couples have an option to use a solicitor to get divorced or to do the process themselves online. Our recent experience is that couples who use the online process are experiencing considerable delays, many weeks longer than those who are using a solicitor.

When considering a divorce, we always recommend coming to talk to our expert family team for initial advice before deciding which option is the most appropriate for you.

Helen Lucking Head of Family and Divorce at Napthens Solicitors