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With the introduction of no-fault divorces this year, experts have welcomed the prospect of greater equality in divorce law as well as an end to what many have dubbed “the blame game”.

The previous divorce laws had often come under fire for an inflammatory application process which forced couples to apportion blame in order to file for a divorce. They had also failed to recognise same-sex affairs as adultery, drawing criticism from legal experts and same-sex couples who argued that equality should apply in “every aspect of the legal system”.

Under previous divorce laws, couples would have to cite one of five reasons for the divorce when filing a petition.

What does divorce law say about adultery?

In England and Wales, there were previously five reasons on which you could rely when applying for a divorce:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Separation for 2 years (with consent from the other party)
  5. Separation for 5 years (no consent necessary)

For the purposes of divorce law, however, adultery is only considered to have occurred when one party has had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. As such, adultery cannot be used as grounds for divorce in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership.

This definition has not been updated since 1973, despite the fact that laws have long since been changed to allow same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership or marry.

How will divorce laws change?

Divorce laws changed in England and Wales on 6 April 2022, bringing in ‘no fault’ divorces and ending the “blame game”.

These changes mean that couples are now able to end their marriage or civil partnership without having to blame the other party for the breakdown of their relationship.

This means that the five reasons identified above are no longer relevant as couples no longer need to cite one of them in order to apply for a divorce. Instead, all that is necessary is to make a declaration that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The Ministry of Justice hopes the changes will result in a more harmonious divorce process for all couples, with a spokesperson stating that “by sparing them the need to play the blame game, we are removing the antagonism that this creates so families can better move on with their lives”.

Getting a divorce: what should I do if my same-sex spouse or civil partner has committed adultery?

As of 6 April this year, you no longer need to cite one of the five reasons (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, 2 years’ separation with consent or 5 years’ separation without consent) in order to apply for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

For more information on divorce and how to apply under the new laws, get in touch to book your free consultation with one of our experienced divorce lawyers today.

Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords comments as follows: “The enactment of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act on 6 April this year has made it possible to obtain a decree of divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership without having to raise allegations at your spouse or civil partner over their behaviour.  It also means that there is now no need to prove and distinguish between adultery and unreasonable behaviour in order to obtain a divorce. It is now possible, for the first time, to make a joint application to the court for a divorce or a dissolution. It is hoped that the new Act will make the divorce process itself less confrontational and judgmental leaving the parties able to focus on resolving the financial aspects and any children issues arising from the end of their relationship.”

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