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Government confirms introduction of no-fault divorce

Six-month minimum timeframe to allow for reflection and better future planning

Resolution has welcomed the Justice Secretary's announcement that he will bring forward legislation to introduce no-fault divorce.

The government's decision follows a public consultation in which family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform. New legislation will therefore be introduced to Parliament to update our 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict.

The Ministry of Justice says that responses also revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

"Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances. While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples. So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good."

Resolution's former Chair, Nigel Shepherd, said:

"We welcome these proposals, which almost entirely reflect Resolution's response to the consultation, and we're pleased the government has listened to calls from our members and others to introduce these changes.
"As someone who's campaigned on this issue throughout my career, I'm delighted that today we are a step closer to reforming our outdated divorce laws.

"Resolution members will always try to help couples deal with the consequences of relationship breakdown with as little acrimony as possible, but the current divorce law makes this so much more difficult. With this new legislation, finally our divorce laws will be brought up to date – helping divorcing couples and, most importantly, any children they may have, avoid unnecessary conflict."

Resolution's current Chair, Margaret Heathcote, added:

"If you're separating, and you're faced with having to make unnecessary and unhelpful accusations against your ex on the divorce petition, there is nothing more important than this reform in the law. Let's now get on with it, and make our divorce law fit for purpose."

Proposals for changes to the law include:

The MoJ says that starting a minimum timeframe at the initial petition stage reflects consultation respondents' views that couples 'feel divorced' when the court grants the provisional decree of divorce (the 'decree nisi'). This will provide a meaningful period of reflection and the opportunity to turn back. Where divorce is inevitable, it will better enable couples to reach agreement on practical arrangements for the future. Courts will retain the power to expedite the process where appropriate.

These reforms, in the view of the MoJ, retain what works well in existing divorce law and remove what stands in the way of resolving difficulties more amicably when a marriage has irretrievably broken down and requires an orderly, legal ending. The new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

For the government's consultation paper, Reducing Family Conflict: reform of the legal requirements for divorce, click here. For the official announcement, click here. For Resolution's response, click here and for that of National Family Mediation, click here.

For the Government's response to the consultation, click here.

9/4/19 (link added to consultation response document: 11/4/19)