UK: Divorce Reform: The End Of The Blame Game?

Last Updated: 18 June 2019
Article by Fleur Claoue De Gohr

Proposed changes to Divorce Laws in England

After many years of campaigning, the government have decided to reform the current divorce laws in England. They do this in an attempt to remove the criticised allocation of blame to one party when initiating divorce proceedings. The proposed reforms have come about following a recommendation to the government by the Supreme Court to review divorce laws after the highly publicised case of Owens v Owens. In this case, the husband contested the unreasonable behaviour particulars alleged to have led to the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. The Supreme Court were bound by the rigid and arguably outdated divorce laws and thus forced to rule that the husband's defence to the wife's allegations were justified. Therefore the wife's application for divorce did not meet the threshold to prove that the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

The subsequent Consultation Paper produced by the Ministry of Justice recommended that the system remove the adverse placing of blame on one party. This would reduce the acrimony and conflict that so often occurs in family proceedings. The government announced in early April 2019 that reforms would take place as soon as parliamentary time allowed, and the reforms would yield to no longer have to prove fault in order to get divorced. It has been called a move to end an "unnecessary blame game" by Justice Secretary David Gauke.

The Current Law

Under the present rules, the applicant in divorce proceedings is required to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by virtue of evidence under 1 of 5 "facts". These are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two year's separation (with consent), or five year's separation (without consent).

Proposed Changes

Whilst irretrievable breakdown of the marriage will still be the main requirement, the government proposes to remove the ability for a spouse to "contest" a divorce. The government has proposed that rather than proving irretrievable breakdown by reference to a "fact". Instead, the irretrievable breakdown will be proven and supported by a statement.

The two-stage process between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute will be retained. However, an opportunity to apply jointly for divorce will be introduced alongside the option for one party to initiate the divorce on their own. In the latter situation, a party will not be able to contest the application for divorce by the other.

The practicalities of divorce under the current law have led to severe delays, with it taking nearly a year to obtain a Decree Absolute. The proposed reforms aim to introduce a mandatory timeframe of 6 months, from petition to Decree Absolute.

Mixed Reactions to these Changes

The proposed reforms have had mixed reactions. Campaigners with more traditional values have seen the proposals to undermine relationships and the seriousness of the institution of marriage by simply making divorce easier. In a statement made by Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern; she said compared "no fault" divorce to "no reason" divorce. Ms Williams accused the Justice Secretary of "tearing down" the life-long commitment of marriage and claimed that change in the law would make life "chaotic" for children.

However, campaigners have also welcomed the change, claiming that it embraces the modern and more fluid nature of relationships that weren't compatible with the rigid, fifty-year-old divorce laws. Aidan Jones Chief Executive of Relate charity claimed that the changes would be beneficial for children. Mr Jones stated that under the "blame game" system, parents struggled to co-parent, often leading to a breakdown in parental relationships that is more likely to have an adverse effect on the children involved.

What do these Changes Mean?

The proposed reforms have been the subject of some controversies because of changes in relation to maintenance. The government have indicated that there should be a five-year bar on the ability to receive periodical payments. For families with young children, this proves to be a significant problem. Where, for example, a mother is the primary carer of young children, all under the age of 5; she is denied support from her ex-spouse after 5 years, and yet still responsible as their primary carer until all the children attain the age of 18.

The success of the reforms is entirely dependent on the "availability of parliament" to debate, agree, draft and impose the new legislation. With Brexit delays making headlines on an almost daily basis, we are yet to see the effect that the reforms will have on family proceedings. However, it cannot be denied that in an area of law so fundamentally rooted in everyday life and relationships; continuous development and re-examination of the law is key.

The everchanging nature of society and the way we look at relationships needs to be reflected in legislation that governs the ways in which family's function on an everyday basis. In particular, that legislation needs to sensibly govern the fallout of relationships during some of the most trying and emotional periods of people's lives.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. For any further queries or follow up please contact Expatriate Law at

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions