Hannah Gannagé-Stewart

Deputy Editor, Solicitors Journal

MPs back no-fault divorce law

MPs back no-fault divorce law


No-fault divorce looks set to become law next year after the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed in the House of Commons 

No-fault divorce looks set to become law next year after the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed in the House of Commons today (17 June).

The law means that divorcing couples will no longer have assign blame in order to end their marriages, a move that campaigners believe is long overdue and will reduce some of the emotional and financial burden.

Family law charity Resolution campaigned for 30 years to end the requirement for couples to assign fault in order to be granted a divorce.

Resolution’s national chair Margaret Heathcote welcomed the development and said that Resolution’s members will be “better able to support couples to resolve matters as constructively and amicably as possible, minimising the impact on any children they may have.”

Former chair of Resolution and long-time campaigner for no-fault divorce, Nigel Shepherd, added: “This is the biggest reform of divorce laws in England and Wales in over fifty years, demonstrating just how outdated and old-fashioned fault-based divorce is”.

Several amendments were tabled while the bill passed through parliament but were either withdrawn or overwhelmingly defeated.

At present, couples seeking a divorce in England and Wales must either spend a minimum of two years separated; or one must blame the other for the marriage breakdown, citing adultery or behaviour. It is hoped that no-fault divorces will start to take place in 2021.

Responding to today’s news, Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis said the move was “long overdue and will bring our divorce law into the 21st century”.

He added: “Divorce can be a highly stressful experience and the current requirement for those divorcing in England and Wales to prove a fault-based fact or wait years still married exacerbates tensions between separating couples. 

“We have long argued the notice period should begin when the divorce application is received by the respondent rather than when the divorce is applied for – ensuring both partners are on the same page from the start and have sufficient time to seek the legal and financial advice they need.  

“We commend the government for moving forward with the legislation and would welcome any opportunities to address our concerns around the notice period.”