John Boon
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No-fault divorce - does it exist?

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It remains a common misconception that it is possible for a married couple or civil partners within the jurisdiction of England and Wales to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences”, as they can in the United States of America and other jurisdictions. 

The Family Law Act 1996, which was introduced by the Conservative government led by John Major, did provide for the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales.    However, these provisions of the Family Law Act were not implemented by the subsequent Labour government led by Tony Blair.  As recently as October 2015, a motion was put forward by a Member of the House of Commons for the introduction of a no-fault based divorce system, but this has not proceeded.  Notwithstanding the increasing clamour amongst legal commentators, and some members of the judiciary, it would appear that no-fault divorce is unlikely to be introduced in the foreseeable future.   

It is only possible to petition for divorce or apply to dissolve a civil partnership in the event that the marriage/civil partnership has been subsisting for at least one year and the Petitioner (i.e. the person presenting the Petition) is able to demonstrate to the court that the marriage/civil partnership has broken down irretrievably by relying on one of the following five facts:-

  • adultery (this ground does not apply to civil partnerships);
  • unreasonable behaviour;
  • desertion;
  • two years’ separation with the consent of both parties; or
  • five years’ separation.

Here at Roythornes, the members of our specialist family law team will be able to advise you on dealing with the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership.  The family law team regularly deals with cases across the East Midlands, East Anglia, Kent and beyond.   The family law team is happy to accommodate a meeting at any of Roythornes four offices in Spalding, Peterborough, Nottingham or Newmarket, by telephone, or by Skype/video conferencing.   

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the family law divorce team by telephone – 01775 842500 – to discuss matters.  Alternatively, please send an email to