Government announces immediate no-fault divorce option

The Government has announced that it will legislate to allow couples to divorce in as little as six months, without having to apportion blame. At the same time, it will change the law so that it will no longer be possible to contest a divorce petition.

The move comes after the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Tini Owens must remain married to her husband until 2020 because he contested her divorce petition.

The Government consulted on the move in autumn and the responses indicated widespread support.

As part of the change, the Government is introducing a 6-month minimum period from petition to decree absolute in order to give couples time for considered reflection before parting. Couples will have to wait 20 weeks from petition to decree nisi and six further weeks for decree absolute.

Instead of being required to prove a ‘fact’ relating to the behaviour of the other party or separation, couples will have to provide a statement confirming that their relationship has broken down irretrievably.

David Gauke, the Secretary of State for Justice, said: Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.

“While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.

“So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”