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'No-fault' divorce: another step towards abolishing marriage

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In the biggest shake-up to family law in the past 50 years, the government is set to announce a consultation on ‘no-fault divorce’, aiming to ‘streamline’ current divorce procedures by ‘decreasing antagonism’ and potential ‘confrontation’.


The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, is expected to launch a public debate on proposals that are currently being finalised in a bid to ‘modernise’ existing legislation. Speaking recently to The Times, he said that he was “increasingly persuaded … that what we have at the moment creates more antagonism than we really need”. He added that, “I don’t think the best way of helping the institution of marriage is by putting bureaucratic hurdles in the way of a divorce”.

Current Laws

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, couples wanting a divorce must either prove that their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, or if both parties agree, they can part after having been separated for a minimum of two years. Alternatively, if both parties don’t agree, they may divorce after having been separated for a minimum of five years.

According to family law solicitors, Resolution, some 60% of divorces in England and Wales are granted after a spouse makes an allegation of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Resolution has campaigned for changes to the law, arguing that the current system creates conflict and an unnecessary ‘need to blame’.

Nigel Shepherd, former chair of the family law organisation, said, “apportioning blame can lead to long-term damage to relationships between children and their parents, and can undermine attempts to resolve matters outside of an already overstretched court system.

“The government appears to have heeded our calls to make our divorce system fit for the modern age, and we will continue to push for the much-needed, overdue reform to be implemented as soon as possible”.

The government has said that their proposals will aim to reduce family conflict and protect children from the confrontational nature of the current system.

The Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon, said on Friday, “Labour is fully committed to introducing no-fault divorce proceedings. Instead of yet another consultation, the Conservatives should get on with changing our divorce laws so that they are fit for the 21st century”.

What will this mean for marriage?

However, changing divorce laws would have a hugely damaging effect on society. Marriage would be given a far weaker status; “until death us do part” would no longer mean “until death”, but rather “until one of us has had enough”.

Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern, described the new proposals as ‘unilateral divorce’, speaking of the potential dangers for the children of divorced couples: “These proposals would mean that one partner can impose divorce on the other and any children, forcing them to move house and break up the family. This amounts to ‘unilateral divorce’ where one partner is imposing divorce on the other. Studies have shown that children do better with married parents, even if those parents are in conflict. No-one seems to care about the effects on children and vulnerable women of making one-sided unilateral divorce legal.”

Thomas Pascoe, of the Coalition for Marriage, argues that although these campaigners argue their reforms are compassionate, in reality they are simply trivialising marriage and reducing its status “to that of a tenancy contract”.

He adds, “No-fault divorce is really ‘no-reason’ divorce, it undermines marriage by allowing anyone to walk away from their commitments, fully supported by the state, at any time without having to give a good reason.

“[It puts] the most vulnerable at risk by removing the protections in the current system for those who become disabled or suffer a financial setback and whose spouses currently cannot divorce them on this basis.

“It also ignores common sense. You cannot strengthen an institution by stripping it of its legal protections and asking progressively less of its participants.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is part of our history and embedded in our social fabric. Real marriage is not a social invention and cannot be changed by legislation.”

In an article for The Conservative Woman, Ann Farmer agrees. “Rather than benefiting couples, the measure will ‘benefit’ only one – the one who wants a divorce for no other reason than that he or she wants it … this is simply another step on the road to abolishing marriage and returning us to the exploitation and ‘survival of the fittest’ situation that existed before. Once again, ‘progressive’ measures are shown to be regressive – it is ‘modernity’ that really needs updating”.

Take Action

As the consultation is finalised, it is more important than ever to make your voice heard.
Please contact your MP, asking them to reject the government’s plans for no-fault divorce.
Find your MP’s contact details.