A major change in divorce law in England and Wales will come into effect on Wednesday (April 6), in what campiagners have heralded as a “hallelujah moment” for couples wishing split amicably.

Couples will be able to start proceedings without apportioning blame as no-fault divorce legislation comes into force.

Campaigners say it will help couples move forward, rather than dredge up the past, and enable them to secure the best outcome for their family without unnecessary conflict.

Stuart Ruff, partner at the south London and Kent law firm Thackray Williams, said: “This is the legal watershed that couples have been desperately waiting for.

“It is truly a hallelujah moment and will save couples untold pain of having to blame somebody for a divorce.”

The case for this campaign was started off by Tini Owens in 2018, who called the change an "important milestone".

News Shopper: Divorce law has allowed for amicable splits to take place more quickly (PA)Divorce law has allowed for amicable splits to take place more quickly (PA)

She lost a Supreme Court fight in 2018 after failing to convince judges that her 40-year marriage should end.

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

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

Until this week in England and Wales, unless someone could prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to obtain a divorce without their spouse’s agreement was to live apart for five years.

Solicitor Simon Beccle, partner at Payne Hicks Beach, said of the law change: “In addition to reducing potential conflict by removing the issue of blame from the divorce law, there are lots of positives to be taken from the new law, not least in allowing joint applications for divorce for the first time, removing the ability of one spouse to defend a divorce and simplifying the divorce terminology and language.”

Anyone thinking this law change will usher in “quickie divorces” would be mistaken, he said, as there is a minimum 20 weeks between starting proceedings and applying for a conditional order, and a further six-week period before divorce is granted.

News Shopper: The rule change is only coming to England and Wales (Canva)The rule change is only coming to England and Wales (Canva)

Criticism to the law change

Experts warned the move could bring some unintended consequences.

The minimum 20-week wait “will irritate many”, warned Sarah Anticoni, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys.

She added: “Divorce lawyers have rightly spent years lobbying for the end of the often-toxic ‘blame game’.

“However, if couples no longer articulate the demise of their marriage in this way, it is unclear where the feelings of loss, grief and anger will manifest themselves.

“This may need to be addressed through other services, including counselling.”

Groups also called for more support for children whose parents split up.

The Family Solutions Group welcomed the introduction of no-fault divorces but said it is “only one part of the jigsaw”, calling for more help to reduce conflict for children whose parents are separating.