How no fault divorce impacts domestic abuse victims

April 2022 saw one of the biggest changes in divorce law in the last 50 years. It introduced the Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act, and with it, the concept of the no fault divorce. Studies show that the introduction of a no fault divorce has contributed to a reduction in domestic abuse of about 30%, and a decrease of 8% to 15% in suicide rates of wives.

Divorce is difficult at the best of times, but with the standard practice of needing to cite blame when applying for a divorce as before the changes in the law, this led to more difficult and dangerous situations – especially for victims of domestic abuse – both men and women.

What is a no fault divorce?

No fault divorce is the replacement for the outdated divorce law that meant that the person who filed for divorce needed to justify the divorce application by placing the blame on one of the parties. The no fault divorce means that one of the parties can now apply for a divorce without the need of attributing blame to the other.

It makes for less tension, less scope for dispute between an (ex)couple, and, ultimately, a safer environment, especially for people who are on a low income.

The no fault divorce comes as an achievement of the movement that was initiated by the 2018 Owens v Owens case. In this case, Mrs. Owen’s petition for divorce was rejected by the judge due to a lack of evidence of unreasonable behaviour.

This meant that she had to wait for the statutory five years for the proceedings to begin, as her husband refused the divorce. This was a common experience for many people, believing this to be unfair and potentially dangerous, and this set the ball in motion for the no fault divorce.

Removing outdated laws

One of the main reasons for the introduction of the no fault divorce is that it replaces outdated laws whereby one party or the other had to have attributed blame to the other party when they applied for a divorce. This meant that, most commonly, unreasonable behaviour or adultery.

There was no provision, however, for couples that wanted an amicable separation. The removal of the blame aspect of divorce has helped to diffuse often tense situations – and is also very beneficial for any children that are in the relationship.

Removing unnecessary trauma

For victims of domestic abuse, citing that they have been abused by their partner (or ex-partner) can create more tension. If a case went to court, this would often involve the necessity of the victim to give explicit details of the abuse that took place, often being very traumatic for everyone involved.

This also left the victim open to lies being told about them by the abuser in their defence, which could also be very traumatic for them. With the changes in these laws, there is less blame, meaning that victims do not need to explain themselves, and the subject does not need to be approached in court or elsewhere.

It also means that there is less of a chance for tension and danger at home if the couple is still living together.

Reducing risks

Physical and mental violence between couples is a very serious problem, and it is essential that it is as easy for victims to get out as possible. In cases where blame is attributed, this can cause massive tension between a couple and can put the victim in even more danger than previously.

This, or, indeed when one of the parties was forced to stay in the marriage for five years due to the refusal of the other party to accept the petition, can be potentially lethal. This is especially important for low-income couples, where there is potentially less financial independence, and leaving could be more difficult.

The no fault divorce has given these victims a lifeline, enabling them to get out of the relationship as quickly and easily as possible, reducing these risks.

Family law advice with Waldrons

Here at Waldrons, our team of professional lawyers is on hand to help you with all of your family law issues. Whether you are looking for a no fault divorce or other aspects of family law, why not get in touch with us today?

For help with domestic abuse,  get in touch with:

National Domestic Abuse Helpline on  0808 2000 247

Men’s Domestic Abuse Survivors on  0808 801 0327

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline on  0800 999 5428

Samaritans on  116 123

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Alka Wood who is an Solicitor