Government consultation to consider introduction of no-fault divorce

By Lenore Rice

England and Wales could be moving towards a no-fault divorce system with an announcement expected that a government consultation will consider how to remove “unnecessary antagonism” from the divorce process.

The anticipated announcement comes in the wake of the high-profile Supreme Court decision to reject an appeal by Tini Owens, who is unable to divorce her husband until 2020 because he does not consent to the separation. Mrs Owens had not been able to establish any of the grounds for an immediate divorce, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. She was then unable to apply for a divorce on the basis that they had lived apart for over 2 years because this option requires both spouses to consent to the divorce. Mr Owens does not agree that the marriage has broken down and so Mrs Owens has to wait until they have lived apart for at least 5 years.

These criteria are often criticised by campaigners who say that many couples feel that they have to establish fault on one side of the marriage in order to avoid a 2 or 5 year delay. This can often result in an amicable separation turning volatile as the couple has to show unreasonable behaviour or go on record with an infidelity that they might otherwise have preferred to keep private.

Justice Secretary David Gauke is expected to begin the consultation into the introduction of no-fault divorces in England and Wales in the next few months, in what would be a landmark change for divorce law. Mr Gauke has said that the current system creates “unnecessary antagonism” for couples going through a divorce.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.