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Running a business is difficult enough when life is going well. However, sometimes personal challenges make things even more difficult. For example, if your marriage is on the rocks, you and your partner are going to need all the positive support you can get. That’s why the UK’s introduction of consultation on no-fault divorces is so timely, whether you’re a business owner or not.

As a matter of fact, you may be glad to know that the UK government has finally heeded the chorus of voices demanding reform to the UK’s adversarial divorce system. To that end, it has launched a public consultation on introducing no-fault divorces. The consultation applies to both marriages and civil partnerships.




Here’s How Things Stand at the Moment

It was the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that cemented the adversarial nature of modern-day divorce in the UK. This act forces anyone who wishes to speed up the process of divorce to prove that their partner is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Separating couples where neither party is willing or able to demonstrate adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behavior are forced to wait for a minimum of two years before they can divorce. Moreover, if one party opposes the divorce, they must wait for five years. The Tini Owens case recently demonstrated the unsatisfactory nature of this situation.

After the collapse of her decades-long marriage, Tini Owens sought a divorce from her husband. The judge hearing the case dismissed her petition. He described her case as “flimsy.” Further, he described her estranged husband as “old school” and told Tini that she was “more sensitive than most wives.”

To make matters worse, both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court ultimately upheld this ruling. Both courts analyzed the meanings of “unreasonable behavior” and “fault.” Their Lordships noted that they found the case “troubling.” However, as the law now stands, there is no alternative for Tini Owens. In other words, she must wait for the prescribed five years before divorcing.


No-Fault Divorces Can Ease a Difficult Process

Interested commentators were quick to highlight the difficulties of this sort of situation. Currently, the law makes it more likely that a couple’s split will be acrimonious. Divorce lawyers have pointed out that couples who know they want to divorce swiftly may now be more likely to invent or embellish behavior. They must do so in order for certain behaviors to fall within the “unreasonable behavior” category. The knock-on effect on the individuals themselves and on any children of the marriage is all too imaginable.


How Divorces Would Change with No-Fault Divorces

The consultation for no-fault divorces is founded on two premises:

  1. To ensure that the parties have carefully considered any decision to divorce. Moreover, the parties must have the chance to change their minds.
  2. To ensure that the divorce process does not require the parties to circumvent an outdated legal system that does not place their interests at its heart. Neither should that process generate conflict between them and consequentially poor outcomes for their children.

With these twin aims in mind, the consultation proposes removing the ability to allege fault when seeking a divorce. This will require amendment to what the law currently requires in order to end a marriage through divorce. As a member of Resolution, the Solicitor’s Family Law Association, the authors and their colleagues continue to brief Parliament. The consultation closes on 10 December 2018.


About the Authors

This article was provided by Clifford Johnston & Co Solicitors.