Changes to divorce laws are set in motion

The Government has started the process of reforming divorce laws in England and Wales, something which has not happened since the 1970s.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received its first reading on 13 June. It will receive its second reading on a date to be announced. This Bill will remove the need for divorcing couples to lay the blame for the breakdown of the marriage at one person’s feet.

Currently if a divorcing couple do not wish to place blame they must show the court that they have been living separately for a minimum of 2 years. Otherwise to start proceedings any earlier requires one party admitting to adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Instead, once this Bill is passed, a divorce petition can be presented to the court with a statement made by one or both parties saying that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The Bill will also remove the possibility of contesting a divorce petition, something which at the moment is rare but costly when it happens.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

“Marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society, but when a relationship breaks down it cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other.

By removing the unnecessary mud-slinging the current process can needlessly rake up, we’ll make sure the law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible.”

Rory O’Brien is a solicitor and head of the family team at Barker Gotelee.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email