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Government to consult on no-fault divorce

Proposals will provide for a single ground for divorce of irretrievable breakdown

BuzzFeed News has reported that Justice Secretary David Gauke plans to announce a consultation on no-fault divorce which will call for the existing fault-based system of establishing marriage breakdown to be abolished.

According to BuzzFeed News, the government's proposals would provide for a single ground for divorce of irretrievable breakdown and would end the requirement that that be evidenced by one of five facts. The Ministry of Justice will also seek to end the opportunity for a spouse to contest a divorce and consult on the length of the divorce process, proposing a minimum timeframe of six months. The proposed legislation would also apply to civil partnerships.

Resolution's former Chair and longtime campaigner for reform, Nigel Shepherd, said:

"This news has the potential to be a landmark moment for divorce law in England and Wales. Resolution has been leading the campaign to end the blame game for over thirty years. For far too long, couples have been forced into needless acrimony and conflict in order to satisfy an outdated legal requirement.

"Everyday our members see the devastating impact conflict can have on families. Apportioning blame can lead to long-term damage to relationships between children and their parents, and can undermine attempts to resolve matters outside of an already overstretched court system.

"Since 1996, there have been 1.7m people who have assigned blame in the divorce process. Many didn't have to, and every day that goes by sees that number grow.

"The government appears to have heeded our calls to make our divorce system fit for the modern age, and we will continue to push for this much-needed, overdue reform to be implemented as soon as possible."

In 1990, the Law Commission recognised six problems with the fault-based divorce rules, including that they provoked unnecessary hostility and made things worse for children by exacerbating parental conflict. The Commission's report led to the Family Law Act 1996 which made provision for no-fault divorce, but the relevant section never came into force.

The government's plan to consult on no-fault divorce follows July's judgment by the Supreme Court in Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41.

For the report by BuzzFeed News, click here. For a further report by BBC News, click here. For an article by Georgina Rushworth of Coram Chambers – The Divorce Trap: Life After Owens v Owensclick here.