Important update: in April 2019, the government confirmed that England & Wales will (at some point) change the current laws and introduce no-fault divorce. The information in this blog is still valid until the laws change, however when this will be has not yet been confirmed. For updates on no-fault divorce, please enter your email address below and we'll alert you about any important changes.
There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about no-fault divorce. Lots of the commentary comes off the back of Tini Owens and her application for a divorce. Mrs. Owens had petitioned to divorce her husband of 38 years, citing the reason as his ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Mr. Owens rejected her reasoning, stating that he wanted to remain married. A year ago a local judge refused her petition for a divorce and last week Mrs. Owens went to the High Court in London to appeal against that decision.
It is important to say that this is an extremely unusual event as 99% of divorces in England and Wales are uncontested. This means both partners agree to the divorce. The judges, in turn, agree with their reasons to end the marriage and a divorce is granted. It’s a game played by both sides because in this country we still don’t have no fault divorce like many other countries around the globe.
If you’re looking to separate, you might be surprised to learn that no fault divorce doesn’t exist. Instead, you must give a reason for your divorce. In England and Wales there are only five legal options available:
You can read more about the ‘Grounds for divorce’ here.
Therefore, Unless your wife or husband has committed adultery or you have been separated for two years or more your only option is for one partner to wholly blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage – even when you have both agreed to separate and nobody is at fault.
Because we don’t have no fault divorce, if you’re applying for a divorce using ‘unreasonable behaviour’ you must list events strong enough to warrant ending your marriage. It’s a ridiculous balancing act trying to find reasons strong enough to pass through the court yet not so contentious as to overly upset your ex. Furthermore, even if you’re having an amicable divorce, seeing a list of your misdemeanors at a time that is already emotionally charged, can be incredibly upsetting. This can create conflict and set the process back considerably. Moreover, in many circumstances, there has been no ‘unreasonable behaviour’, just a slow realisation that the marriage is over and no longer tenable. A change in the law to allow no fault divorce would help tens of thousands of people who want to divorce amicably and without further drama.
A Yougov poll last week showed that 69% of the population support no fault divorce. There is increasing media coverage about the benefits of amicable divorce. A recent article by Flic Everett in the Daily Telegraph highlighted the growing number of people who are choosing to ‘semi-split’ rather than blame their partner. People are finding ways around the law that make more sense for their family. Its a positive move towards divorce becoming a less painful process. However, the law seems out of step with popular feeling and common sense.
amicable, along with ‘Relate and Resolution’ are campaigning to change our legal system. We’re supporting a new divorce procedure that means that one or both partners can give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. After six months, if either or both people still think they are making the right decision the divorce is finalised. This goes further than the proposed No-Fault Divorce Bill 2016 and needs support from MPs for it to pass.
If like us, this is important to you, you can email your MP and ask for their support. You can find your MP’s address here.
If in the meantime, if you want an amicable divorce we’re here to help. Our divorce coaches will guide you through our outdated system until the politicians catch up with you and us!