4 Ways That No-Fault Divorces Will Change Marriages in the UK

divorce papers

With the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill now just waiting for Royal Assent, No-fault Divorces are making their way to the United Kingdom. Though garnering opposition from some MPs, the biggest reform on marriage laws in the UK in 50 years is now almost a reality.

If you do not know much about the bill, here are four ways that no-fault divorces will change marriages in the UK:

1. It does away with assigning blame

One of the biggest criticisms about existing divorce laws in the UK is the need to assign blame and prove it in court. Presently, a petitioner must prove one or more of the five facts to establish that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down.” The five facts are: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, two years of separation (if divorce is mutually agreed), and five years of separation (if the other party contests). Previously, one or more of these facts must be established, even if both spouses are in mutual agreement, which can cause unnecessary resentment between them.

The new bill will do away with the need to establish these “facts” and will allow the divorce proceedings to continue with just a statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as proof. This change effectively allows for a smoother separation process and does away with court hearings that often end up complicating the already-difficult process.

2. It prevents contesting of divorce

Though rarely used, the right to contest a divorce prolonged the proceedings and effectively forced the petitioner to turn to a separation-based divorce.

In the case of the high profile 2015 Owens vs Owens case, the petitioner Mrs Owens could not prove substantial fault that it was her husband’s “unreasonable behaviour” that caused the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. As a result, the courts ruled that she had to stay married for another five years because of her husband’s refusal to agree with the split.

This high profile case is believed to have served as the catalyst for the bill to be introduced.

3. It spares children from unnecessary trauma

The damaging effects of divorce proceedings on children are widely documented. The lawmakers are hopeful that the smoother process of No-Fault Divorces will be beneficial to children. Without the need to assign blame, the process will no longer require dredging up sensitive topics and putting a spotlight on a family’s otherwise private issues.

4. It reduces cost

Divorce proceedings, especially if prolonged, can cause a serious financial strain on both parties. In between solicitor’s fees, court fees, and lifestyle costs, the average cost of a divorce is £14,561 if both spouses are in agreement. In cases of contested divorces, the costs can skyrocket to as much as £30,000 in solicitor’s and court fees alone.

The new measure is expected to reduce the costs significantly by removing the need to prove blame and blocking any contests. The sooner the divorce is granted, the lower the costs will be.

Conclusion

The introduction of No-Fault Divorces is inevitable. Once the bill receives the Queen’s Royal Assent, couples will no longer have to go through the arduous process of proving blame. Widely celebrated by family law practitioners, the new procedure is expected to be available for couples in 2021.

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