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No “Fault” Needed For A Divorce?

No “Fault” Needed For A Divorce?

The New Year is a time when traditionally people take stock of their current situation and make resolutions for the year ahead, which may include ending a relationship. One of the first questions is often – Can I get divorced? Do I have to prove something?

18 months ago, we published a blog about the current divorce process in England and Wales which was actually set out in 1973. The procedure was prescribed at a time when there was a concern not to make divorce “too easy”. Parliament set down that parties had to either be separated for at least 2 years or to find a good reason for a divorce – either adultery or behaviour.

What is bad behaviour or adultery?

  • It is not enough to say we have been married for 20 years and we have grown into different people who no longer have anything in common.
  • It is not enough to say that my spouse is irritating.
  • It is not enough to say that my spouse had an affair and that we have tried work through the problems, but after 6 months of trying it has still not worked.
  • It is not enough to say that you have irreconcilable differences.

To prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably as a result of your spouse’s behaviour or adultery, you have to set out, in some detail the other party’s adultery, or the details of their behaviour. This makes for unpleasant reading, even where both parties want a divorce to proceed.  It unnecessarily increases the temperature and makes it more difficult to resolve longer term issues such as finances and often children issues.

Tini Owens

Last year Tini Owens appealed to the highest Court in England – the Supreme Court – asking to be granted a divorce. She was told that the reasons she had put in her divorce petition were simply not good enough and as her husband would not agree to the divorce at all, she will now have to wait until they have been separated for 5 years to get a divorce.

Overhaul of the Law

There have been so many opportunities over recent years, to change the divorce procedure. In 1996 the Family Law Act made provision for a divorce order based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and arrangements for the future having been settled. A statement would be made by one of the parties with a nine-month period of reflection and consideration before the order could be finalised. It would also be necessary to attend information meetings and settle financial arrangements before the divorce could be finalised. There was provision to prevent a divorce order in some circumstances.

Unfortunately, that provision was never brought into force and we have continued to trundle along with our now 46-year-old legislation.

Following the Owens case, the government indicated an intention to consult on the no-fault divorce. There are still many people who feel they would not want to make obtaining a divorce any easier.

In our experience however, people only come for a divorce when they have considered long and hard if there is no other option. We are therefore of the view that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to make it more difficult for them to separate when it is clear that it will have detrimental, knock-on effects for resolving the more important issues such as children and money.

Your MP will shortly have a vote on whether to introduce a no-fault divorce and you can influence this by contacting your MP and asking him to support it.

With our specialist matrimonial lawyers available across our network of offices in Yorkshire and the Tees Valley you can access personal advice wherever you see our sign, including York, Harrogate, Northallerton & Stockton. If you are considering starting divorce proceedings this new year or have just received divorce papers and need advice, please contact your nearest office, call 0800 1601010, visit or email

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