One step closer to a No Fault Divorce

With Brexit having caused delays in all other business being dealt with by Parliament, the “Divorce, Dissolution and Separation” Bill was finally progressed and on Monday, cleared the next stage towards Royal Assent. The much awaited 'no-fault' divorce is therefore one step closer.

What is the current position? Under the current outdated legislation, it is not possible for separating couples to simply choose to divorce without 'shoehorning' the reasons for the breakdown of their marriage into one of the following five grounds for divorce:-

  1. Adultery where one person has strayed and is willing to admit it in divorce proceedings.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour where one of the parties has to list incidents of the other's behaviour to demonstrate why they have 'caused' the marriage to breakdown.
  3. Desertion where one party has disappeared.
  4. 2 years separation with consent when the parties have been separated for 2 years and they both agree to the separation.
  5. 5 years separation where the parties have been separated for 5 years.

Many clients accept that they no longer wish to be in the marriage and are dismayed when they find themselves in a position where, in the absence of adultery, they have to either wait for 2 years (if they agree to the divorce) or they have to produce a list of the other's behaviour. It is common accepted practice for family lawyers to work with clients to try and make the divorce process as amicable as possible, however, most agree that it is an antiquated process that when asking parties to allocate blame, simply adds further emotion and upset to an already difficult situation.

So how will things change? 

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill removes the need for one of the above grounds to be established and instead allows a couple to jointly apply for a divorce, stating that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.  There would be a minimum time requirement of 6 months between the issue of the petition and the final part of the divorce - currently called the Decree Absolute but to be amended to “final order”.

Is it worth waiting for the no-fault divorce? 

The Bill cleared its second reading in the House of Commons on 8 June 2020. Whilst it is now possible that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in weeks, guidance notes, procedures and new forms will still have to be put in place. The proposed 6 month requirement would also then need to be met.Depending on the urgency and the particular facts of each case, it may be advisable to issue a petition under the current provisions - as unsatisfactory as that may be - if you are seeking to obtain your Decree Absolute within 6-9 months. Online applications are possible and actively encouraged as the swiftest way to get your divorce petition processed.The facts of each case is different along with the objectives of the parties so before agreeing anything, get in touch with one of the Family Team at Freeths to talk through your options and the best way forward to achieve your objectives. Remember, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.