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Nuffield Foundation: ‘No Fault Divorce’ In Line With Global Trend

March 27th, 2019

The UK is lagging behind other countries around the world with regards to its divorce laws, by obligating one spouse to be at fault for a legal separation to be granted or having to live as an estranged couple for a considerable amount of time.

With more and more married couples calling for ‘no fault divorces’ in the UK, the Nuffield Foundation found this was already in line with global divorce law trends.

Currently, couples in England and Wales have to be married for a year before they can get a divorce, and they have to prove their relationship has irretrievably broken down before they are granted a separation.

This breakdown of a marriage can occur through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years of separation with consent, or five years of separation without consent.

However, there is no case for a ‘no fault divorce’, which would mean no party takes the blame for the marriage dissolving. For instance, if a couple simply grows apart or falls out of love with each other, they would not be able to get a divorce in the UK without either waiting for two years with consent, or citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ – something that could cause more damage to their relationship if one partner believes this is unjustified.

Nuffield Foundation’s recent report argues that the Ministry of Justice’s proposal to allow ‘no fault divorces’ to occur in Britain follows a global movement.

Dr Jens M Scherpe and Professor Liz Trinder compared divorce legislation in Australia, California, Colorado, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden with those in the UK.

“They find there is an international trend towards recognition that a divorce must be granted where one of both parties insists that the marriage is over,” a spokesperson for the organisation stated.

The Ministry of Justice is currently trying to reform divorce legislation, looking at introducing a new waiting period instead of claiming the marriage broke down as a result of the five grounds.

“The consultation also proposes to remove the ability to defend a divorce, other than in relation to lack of jurisdiction, validity of the marriage, fraud and procedural compliance,” the spokesperson went on to say.

Before the proposals for a ‘no fault divorce’ can be approved, questions need to be answered regarding how the notification procedure would work.

The problems regarding fault-based divorce have been discussed for years, and a Law Commission report highlighting six issues with it was published as long ago as 1990.

It stated the law “distorted bargaining positions, provoked unnecessary hostility, made things worse for children by exacerbating parental conflict whilst at the same time doing nothing to save marriages”.

Despite the government trying to implement the Family Law Act 1996, this was never established due to logistical problems.

It is clear that some sort of amendment needs to be done though, as 43 per cent of people who were blamed as part of divorce proceedings disagreed with their ex-spouse, and more than a third (37 per cent) rejected the allegations that were made against them.

For more information on separating from your partner, our divorce solicitors in Buckinghamshire can help you find out where you stand. Talk to us on 01494 773377 or email us at


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