The Family Law Act 1996
c 27
is an
Act of Parliament Acts of Parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries with a parliamentary system of government, acts of parliame ...
of the United Kingdom governing divorce law and marriage. The law intends to modernise
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. Divorce usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the ...
and to shift slightly towards "no fault" divorce from the fault-based approach of the
Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (c 18) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom governing divorce law and marriage in England and Wales. Contents The act contains four parts: # Divorce, Nullity and Other Matrimonial Suits # Financial Reli ...
. The main part of the Act, dealing with divorce, was not proceeded with after pilot schemes found that it did not work well.


Part I of the Act sets out the philosophical approach to divorce. Part II set out a procedure for divorce which required spouses seeking divorce to attend a preliminary Information Session and to seek mediation as a first step. Part II and related sections of other parts were repealed and partially replaced by section 18 of the Children and Families Act 2014 after they were abandoned in practice in 1999. Part III of the act concerns provision of
legal aid Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to ...
for mediation in family law and divorce. Part IV set out the mechanisms and principles related to family homes (in particular Family Law Act home rights Notices affecting land), occupation orders, non-molestation orders and
domestic violence Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse or family violence) is violence or other abuse that occurs in a domestic setting, such as in a marriage or cohabitation. ''Domestic violence'' is often used as a synonym for '' intimate partn ...
orders and principles. Sections 30 and 31 concern the award of a statutory licence to occupy a home. Part IVA contains provisions related to
forced marriage Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or more of the parties is married without their consent or against their will. A marriage can also become a forced marriage even if both parties enter with full consent if one or both are later force ...
. Part V contains supplemental sections.


The divorce sections of the Act received a great deal of media discussion and criticism, with some seeing the new approach to divorce as encouraging "quickie" divorces (although in practice, a fault-based divorce under the old scheme could be completed much quicker than under this Act). The political commentator Anne McElvoy welcomed the abandonment of the Act's divorce sections seeing the extensive waiting periods and required mediation as an intrusive compromise between a proper "no fault" divorce system and the needs of "family fundamentalists".

Related developments

Following the decision by the
UK Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (initialism: UKSC or the acronym: SCOTUK) is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for all civil cases, and for criminal cases originating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the Unite ...
in ''
Owens v Owens ''Owens v Owens'/nowiki> UKSC 41] was a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom case involving the divorce of Mr and Mrs Owens, a couple who had married in 1978. The Supreme Court upheld a decision made at trial, and previously upheld by the Court of ...
'', in February 2019 Secretary of State for Justice, Justice Secretary
David Gauke David Michael Gauke (; born 8 October 1971) is a British political commentator, solicitor and former politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for South West Hertfordshire from 2005 to 2019. He served in the Cabinet under Theresa May, m ...
said that he would introduce legislation enacting no-fault divorce in the next session of Parliament.

See also

* English land law *
English property law English property law refers to the law of acquisition, sharing and protection of valuable assets in England and Wales. While part of the United Kingdom, many elements of Scots property law are different. In England, property law encompasses f ...
* English family law *
Children Act 1989 The Children Act 1989 is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament which allocates duties to local authorities, courts, parents, and other agencies in the United Kingdom, to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted. It centres on th ...


United Kingdom Acts of Parliament 1996 Family law in the United Kingdom Property law of the United Kingdom {{UK-statute-stub