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10 SEP 2018

Government plans to launch a consultation on “no-fault” divorce

Government plans to launch a consultation on “no-fault” divorce

It is anticipated that the UK government will announced a consultation on “no-fault” divorce in the next few months.

The justice secretary David Gauke is expected to launch a public debate on proposals to modernise legislation that has not been changed for almost 50 years. He has previously acknowledged that the argument for reform is “strong”.

Demands for change have increased since the Supreme Court’s decision in Owens  v Owens, when it ruled that Tini Owens would be prevented from divorcing her husband until 5 years had elapsed, despite living apart from her husband Hugh Owens since 2015.

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On Friday the shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon said “Labour is fully committed to introducing no-fault divorce proceedings. Instead of yet another consultation, the Conservatives should get on with changing our divorce laws so that they are fit for the 21st century.”

Practitioners were generally positive about the development, with Simon Burge, a Partner at Blake Morgan, saying:  “We welcome the news the Government is planning to hold a consultation on no-fault divorces – it will be a major step forwards in the modernisation of divorce law in England and Wales. Too often divorce hearings focus on blame and allegations as a means to an end, which only increases acrimony at a time when there are more important matters to discuss – such as pensions, mortgages and maintenance payments. By removing ‘fault’ from a case from the outset, it’s possible for couples to achieve a more civilised settlement that is better for all parties.”

Henry Hood, Partner and Head of the Family department at Hunters Solicitors commented "Three cheers for David Gauke for starting a process that must surely deliver us from a divorce process that is not fit for our times. We have been here before of course, and there will be resistance just as there was in 1996 which was able then to prevent any change even after reforming legislation had been passed. That cannot happen again...can it?"