No-fault divorce arriving for separating couples. Should you wait?

***BREAKING NEWS: Since the publication of this article the
Government has now committed to 6th April 2022 for introduction of Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act. Read all about it!


Family lawyers have (since before I began my career some 20 years ago) been campaigning for a no-fault divorce system. It is often a surprise to divorcing couples that unreasonable behaviour or adultery needs to be alleged in a divorce petition, if you have not yet been separated for 2 years. We have all heard of the American way of divorcing on the grounds of ‘irreconcilable differences’ which sounds so, well…sensible! It is often assumed we have or should have the same option. We have not unfortunately.

If everything falls into place, we now will do from Autumn of 2021***

Instead of having to make critical allegations about your soon to be ex, you can instead cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ and proceed with the application whether your spouse agrees or not.

The peculiar nature of the existing divorce law is that if the other spouse objects to the unreasonable behaviour or the adultery, and defends the application – as the husband did in the infamous Supreme Court case of Owens v Owens – then you are spending considerable sums of money arguing in court over whether there should be a divorce. A deeply baffling dispute to be involved in if one accepts that a marriage takes two to work and one of you considers the marriage is over.

Where one adult in a marriage considers the marriage has broken down and wants a divorce, there is little point in prolonging the marriage further. The new law therefore supports this respectful and non-paternalistic approach to divorcing couples and allows one of them the ability to end the marriage if they consider that it has broken down irretrievably.

We are committed to helping clients achieve a dignified and amicable outcome to their divorce and to try and preserve ongoing family relationships for the future as far as possible. This is for the simple reason that this is the best way to deal with a divorce, if at all possible. The upcoming change in the law is a very welcome and overdue change that is going to help us and our clients to achieve this outcome. No longer will we need to carefully craft an unreasonable behaviour petition to avoid an ‘Owen’s’ type court battle or, even better, no longer will our clients have to suffer the distress of receiving a poorly crafted, unnecessarily bitter unreasonable behaviour petition, which has no purpose other than ending the legal marriage, but unfortunately causes so much upset and collateral damage.

So – the question is now being asked – should you wait until the Autumn to begin your divorce process?

Everyone’s financial and legal circumstances in divorce are different. There are unfortunately no blanket answers that can be provided to this. You should seek legal advice on your particular situation before deciding whether to wait until the new divorce process is available or to proceed with the existing system to protect your legal position.

For those not considering a divorce until after Autumn 2021 it is a brighter and more positive process that awaits you. Not an often-heard headline in recent times, and certainly something for family lawyers to celebrate. A long-standing campaign successfully implemented through the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. A huge shame though that it took such a long time to be recognised as both necessary and positively beneficial for all of us.

All of our team of solicitors at Harbour Family Law are specialist family lawyers. We will be able to advise you on your next steps whatever your situation may be.

Please contact us by e-mail at: or by calling 0117 375 1780


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