LGBTQ+ Divorce

Pride marches will be held up and down the country, with those in Brighton, London, and Manchester, in particular, drawing thousands onto the street. As a divorce law solicitor, I have advised and represented many same sex couples whose relationships have broken down resulting in divorce or civil partnership dissolution. And although some clients worry that the law may be different when it comes to getting divorced or dissolving their civil partnership, recent changes in the law mean regardless of your sexual orientation, ending a marriage follows the same course.

No requirement to prove fault

On 6th April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (DDSA) 2020 came into force. Before April, the only ground for getting a divorce was that the marriage has irretrievably broken down for one of the following reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • The couple had lived apart for more than two years, and both agreed to the divorce
  • The couple had been separated for five years, no consent was required

Due to the legal definition of adultery being confined to an act between a man and a woman, sexual intercourse between people of the same sex was never a reason for the marriage irretrievably breaking down. Thankfully, this anomaly has now been swept away as the DDSA 2020 ushered in no-fault divorce. Under the DDSA 2020, one or both parties only need to make a statement that the relationship has irretrievably broken down – no reasons are required. There is also no longer any scope for one party to contest the divorce in order to prevent it. The court must accept the individual’s or couple’s statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and make a divorce order.

Divorcing in a country that does not recognise same sex marriages

One area of divorce law in which there is a slight difference between the law applying to opposite sex married couples and those of the same sex is that of jurisdiction. Although same sex marriage is now recognised in many territories, distressingly, there remain 71 countries that criminalise same sex relationships and marriage. Other nations, for example, India and Japan, do not allow couples of the same sex to marry. However, in the aforementioned countries things are progressing, for example, the Delhi High Court is currently hearing several petitions seeking to legalise same sex marriage and in March 2021, a district court in Sapporo, Japan ruled that the country’s non-recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

To ensure same sex couples marrying in England and Wales can also divorce, the court has jurisdiction to facilitate the divorce of a same sex couple who married in the UK but are living in a country where their marriage is not recognised. This is regardless of whether or not one or more of the parties is a habitual resident or domiciled in England and Wales.

Wrapping up

Getting divorced can be a stressful time and having an experienced divorce solicitor who is a member of Resolution can make a great deal of difference, especially when it comes to the financial settlement in high-net-worth and/or international divorce cases. Our team can advise and represent you during your divorce and you can be confident that we will tenaciously work to protect your best interests.

Edwards Family Law is a niche London-based firm specialising in complex family law cases . To find out more about divorce and financial settlements, please phone +44 (0)20 3983 1818 or email contact@edwardsfamilylaw.co.uk. All enquiries are treated in the strictest confidence.