‘No fault’ system represents biggest change to divorce law for 50 years

Rayma Collins

Partner & Head of Family Law

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April 9, 2019

Changes to the divorce laws in England and Wales will see the introduction of a “no fault” system when they come into effect in the near future.

Under current rules, one spouse must allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour by the other in order to pursue a divorce. The new law will introduce a ‘no fault’ system, whereby a spouse only needs to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Rayma Collins, Partner & Head of Family Law at South East law firm Furley Page, said: “This is the most significant overhaul to the divorce laws since the Divorce Reform Act was introduced in 1969.

“In practice, it is the disagreement between the parties on where and what blame is being ascribed which makes agreeing the terms of a divorce so painful and time consuming.

“It is hoped that the new law will make the process less acrimonious by replacing the ‘fault-based’ divorce system, which often creates animosity between the two parties and can have a particularly harmful effect when children are involved.”

The new rules will include a minimum timeframe of six months from petition stage to decree absolute – the legal document that ends a marriage.

Rayma continued: “Divorce can be a very stressful time during which emotions are running high. The introduction of a minimum timeframe will ensure a sufficient cooling-off period, giving couples the time to reflect on their decision before completing the divorce. In my experience, this is a very useful mechanism which gives both parties time to consider their options and can lead to a more amicable outcome once the dust has settled.”

Proposals for changes to the law are intended to reduce hostility for the family involved, including:

  • replacing the requirement to provide evidence of adultery or unreasonable behaviour with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
  • creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
  • removing the ability to contest a divorce

Furley Page’s six-strong Family Law team has wide-ranging experience in family law and divorce. With offices in Canterbury, Whitstable and Chatham, the firm offers a comprehensive range of family law services to clients across the South East.

The team also boasts specialists in collaborative family law, a dignified legal process which enables couples who have decided to separate to work with their legal teams to agree a fair settlement, without the need for litigation.

For more information about Furley Page’s Family Law services email Rayma Collins at rlc@furleypage.co.uk or call 01227 763939.