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Richard Perrins - Partner, Coles Miller

How To Get A No Fault Divorce (When They Don't Exist Yet)11th Jan 2017

Update, June 19 2020: ‘No fault divorce’ is expected to become law in autumn 2021. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has now passed through the Commons. It still needs to go before the House of Lords before receiving Royal Assent.

‘No fault divorce’ exists in America but not yet under UK law. That should not stop you from getting one though.

It is still possible to divorce or dissolve a civil partnership under UK law without having to apportion blame.

Here’s how…

Separate For Two Years – By Mutual Consent

This is the easiest way. You just show the court that you have been living apart (by agreement) for two years.

In most cases this involves one person moving out. But it is still possible to live ‘separate lives’ under the same roof. 

Sleep in separate bedrooms. Or even just separate beds. Use the kitchen at different times. You live like flatmates rather than a couple. The courts can accept this.

But beware. There are legal risks to waiting two years (either apart or in the same property).

What if your financial circumstances change during the two-year separation?

What if you win the lottery? Or you inherit property or a large sum of money? Or your business grows faster than you expect?

Or conversely, what if your partner racks up huge debts? Or loses their job and is forced to dig into savings?

All these scenarios can have a significant impact on your divorce financial agreement when it eventually happens.

Here’s the solution…

Get A Separation Agreement Now: Don’t Wait For Your Divorce

It is important to agree your finances and children arrangements as soon as possible after you separate.

Get a separation agreement. It will make organising everything much easier. It also can form the basis of your financial agreement when you divorce.

Separation agreements are not legally binding until they are backed up by a court order.

But getting one early on is still a good idea because it makes the divorce process quicker and less stressful.

Other Options For Getting Divorced

Another ‘no fault’ way of divorcing is to wait for five years. Agreement is not required in this situation.

You still don’t have to apportion blame.

But five years is a long time – and you won’t have reached an agreement. So it’s far better to go down the ‘two years by consent’ route.

There are only three other ways to prove that a marriage has broken down irretrievably: unreasonable behavior, adultery or desertion (which is rare).

On paper, you can still claim adultery even you have separated amicably and agreed to see other people.

But adultery still carries the stigma of the scarlet letter – even if no betrayal or duplicity has taken place – so some couples are unwilling to cite it.

For more information, contact Associate Solicitor and Mediator Richard Perrins, Head of Coles Miller’s Family Law Department, 01202 355698.