Married couples in England can now divorce without blaming each other

'No-fault' divorces will mean one spouse no longer needs to prove adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion

Campaigners in England and Wales have heralded the biggest shake-up of divorce law in half a century, aimed at couples wishing to split amicably. PA

Unhappy spouses in England and Wales can now end their marriages without blaming each other.

"No-fault" divorces will mean from Wednesday, one spouse no longer needs to prove the other guilty of either adultery, "unreasonable behaviour" or desertion.

Previously, without such proof, couples had to live apart for two years before a divorce could be granted — or five years if one partner objected to the proceedings.

The biggest reform of divorce law for 50 years brings England and Wales into line with Scotland, the US, Australia and Germany.

In 2018, Tini Owens lost a Supreme Court fight when she failed to persuade the judges that her 40-year marriage should end.

Her husband had contested her claims of unreasonable behaviour. Judges ruled that being trapped in an unhappy marriage was not in itself grounds for divorce.

"No one should have to remain in a loveless marriage or endure a long, drawn-out and expensive court battle to end it," Ms Owens said.

"This change in the law guards against that happening and I welcome it."

Couples concocting evidence

A minimum wait of 20 weeks will be required between a spouse first initiating proceedings and applying for a legal order. They must wait another six weeks before the divorce can be granted.

The decades-old system has led to some couples employing private detectives to find evidence of fault — or agreeing to concoct the evidence.

A woman identified as Vicky told BBC radio she and her first husband "had to make up scenarios and situations that we felt were going to be accepted" by the court after they had agreed to an amicable divorce.

Her second marriage was to a "very manipulative" and "violent" man who refused to take part in divorce proceedings, forcing her to wait for five years of separation.

"And I could have been out of that relationship a lot quicker and a lot sooner than I was," said Vicky, according to AFP.

Updated: April 06, 2022, 4:52 AM