Government confirms plans to introduce no-fault divorce


Josephine Tasker a member of the family team at AMD Solicitors discusses the Government’s plans for ‘no-fault’ divorce.

In April 2019 the Government set out its proposals for reforming our 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

“While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.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


The current legal basis

In order to obtain a divorce a Petitioner has to prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down by reference to one of five statutory factors. These are:

  • Adultery (fault based).
  • Unreasonable behaviour (fault based)
  • Two years’ desertion (fault based)
  • Two years' separation with the other spouses’ consent  (separation based)
  • Five years' separation, no consent required (separation based).

Owens v Owens

In 2016, a judge in the Central Family Court refused to grant Mrs Owens a decree nisi of divorce, even though the judge had ruled her marriage to her husband had broken down.  Mr Owens defended the divorce (a rare occurrence in practice) and the judge found that Mrs Owens had failed to prove that her husband had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. Mrs Owens appealed first to the Court of Appeal, who dismissed the appeal, and then to the Supreme Court.


In 2018, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed that appeal and the outcome left Mrs Owens trapped in her marriage. This made headline news and reinvigorated the calls for “no-fault” divorce to end the blame game. 


“No-fault” divorce – proposed reforms to help reduce family conflict

Following reform, the five ‘facts’ would be removed - a couple or one party will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.


It will also remove the ability for one person to contest a divorce and introduces a minimum timeframe of six months from petition to divorce. 


Among others, advocates of “no-fault” divorce include some senior members of the Judiciary, the Family Mediation Taskforce, Resolution (the national organisation of family lawyers) and the Law Society.  


Parallel changes will be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership which broadly mirrors the legal process for obtaining a divorce.


Should I wait for no-fault divorce to become law? 

You may be waiting some time – the legislation is expected to be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows.”


For advice on divorce in this interim period contact our team of specialist family solicitors on 0117 962 1205 or by email at or by calling into one of four Bristol offices.  

This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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Josephine Tasker

Trainee Solicitor

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