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Divorce Reform – No Fault Divorce

 July 2018 |  Molly Betts

To obtain a divorce without alleging fault, a couple must wait until they have been separated for 2 years with consent and 5 years without consent. Many people allege fault-based facts of adultery or unreasonable behavior to obtain a divorce without delaying for 2 or 5 years. This can increase the bitterness between parties and makes dealing with other arrangements more difficult.

Scotland, America and Australia allow ‘no fault divorces’ meaning that couples can divorce after one year of marriage without stating why the marriage broke down or who was at fault.

It has been argued by many that the divorce law of England and Wales should be updated to allow no-fault divorces. This argument has been rejected on many occasions on the ground that it undermines the institution of marriage.

The No Fault Divorce Bill was a Private Member’s Bill that attempted to introduce the no fault divorce option in 2015. The Bill proposed a 6th fact for divorce which allowed the marriage to be dissolved without the need to separate or allege fault. The bill was unsuccessful in bringing about reform.

Since the recent Supreme Court judgment in the Case of Owens v Owens 2017, it is clear to many that some reform is needed. In this case the judge ruled that the wife could not dissolve the marriage on the grounds of the husband’s unreasonable behavior simply because she was unhappy. They considered her examples of the husband’s behavior to be “flimsy and exaggerated”. As a result, Mrs Owens is unable to apply for divorce until 2020.

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