Until 1969 divorce was not, in principle anyway, possible in the absence of bad (usually adulterous) behaviour and it was only the arrival of the concept of marital breakdown which made it necessary to consider conduct as a discrete factor affecting financial claims rather than the sine qua non of the whole divorce process. Following the Divorce Reform Act 1969, it became possible for the first time to be divorced having done no wrong. No longer did it follow that where a divorce took place a marital offence had necessarily occurred from which financial compensation could flow as a matter of right at common law. The spectre of thousands of destitute and abandoned wives led to the Lord Chancellor undertaking not to bring the Divorce Reform Act into force until the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970 was in place, as it was this later Act which dealt with financial aspects of this brave new world of divorce on demand. The Divorce Reform Act 1969 and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970, taken together, created an entirely new regime for divorce and ancillary financial provision.
To read the rest of this article, see October  Family Law journal.
To log on to Family Law Online or to request a free trial click here.