Divorce Reform Announced

Relationship breakdown

posted: 9th April 2019

Early this morning; Justice Secretary David Gauke announced that new legislation will be introduced in respect of divorce.

This will be the first change in the law for 50 years. It is accepted that the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This will remain the only ground for divorce under the new legislation however those wishing to obtain a divorce will not have to identify one of the following is the case

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • 2 years separation with consent
  • 5 years separation or
  • Desertion.

It has commonly been the case as confirmed by the Office of National Statistics in 2017 that the reason most commonly relied upon by those petitioning for divorce is unreasonable behaviour. 37% of men petitioning for divorce and 52% of women petitioning for divorce relied upon their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.

Within an unreasonable behaviour petition the Petitioner essentially has to explain why their spouse’s behaviour is so bad that they should not be expected to remain married to them.

The new legislation whereby you only have to confirm the marriage has irretrievably broken down introduces no-fault divorce. This eliminates any ‘blame’ being placed on either party. It is hoped that this will reduce acrimony between divorcing spouses. It is further believed that children of divorcing parents will benefit as there will be less anger and tension between the parties.

The new process will mean divorcing parties will have to wait six months before their divorce can be finalised. This may be described as the ‘cooling off period’ to give the parties a chance to reflect on their decision.

The new legislation will also eliminate the option to resist or defend the divorce petition. This will be a welcomed change to those who have not been granted a divorce by the court. Albeit this is a small minority of cases as few petitions are defended. This would make a major change for Tini Owens who was denied her divorce after the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that she had not satisfied the grounds for divorce after her husband defended the petition to court. For full details of this case read our blog Divorce Denied.

The precise details of the reform of this legislation are yet uncertain however it is a long awaited and massive step forward in helping divorcing parties and families experience a less stressful and difficult time in their lives. It is also hoped that the law reform will extend to civil partnerships.

If you would like advice in respect of divorce or any other family law issues, contact us today on 0151 375 9968 to book your initial consultation with a member of our highly experienced family law team. You can also email .

By: Lindsey Potter - Paralegal