What does no-fault divorce mean?

With the introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022, there has been the most significant change to divorce law in the UK since it began. Divorcing couples no longer need to play the blame game and fight to prove fault to be allowed to legally separate. These changes apply to both divorce and the dissolution of a civil partnership.

How does the new process work?

Quite simply, one spouse or the couple gives notice that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and submits an application for Divorce.

The 5 Major changes to Divorce Law

Divorce can be granted without one person blaming the other

The most important element of no-fault divorce is the removal of fault or blame from the divorce process. This means you can get divorced solely on the basis that your marriage has broken down, and you no longer need to cite one of the 5 grounds for divorce.

This means there is no longer a requirement for one person to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership.

Joint Application for divorce

Couples can apply for divorce jointly

Previously, it had to be just one person who issued divorce proceedings against the other, now you can apply jointly.

Divorce cooling of period UK

There is a minimum timeframe of 26 weeks between the application and final order

A minimum timeframe of 20 weeks has been introduced between the application being submitted and the final order being applied for. Then an additional 6 week and 1 day period must then pass between the condition order and the application for the final order.

Divorce terminology graphic

Divorce terminology has been updated

  1. The couple applying for the divorce is now called the applicants, rather than one person being called the petitioner.
  2. If the application is just made by one person, the other person is called the respondent.
  3. The decree nisi is now called the conditional order and the decree absolute is now called the final order.

Legally contesting divorce UK

It is no longer possible to contest a divorce

Under the old divorce system, one person would submit a divorce petition citing their spouse’s behaviour or a period of separation as the reason for the divorce, and their spouse could contest this.

The newly introduced Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act sees the biggest shake-up to divorce law in over 50 years – so it’s likely you have questions!

No-Fault Divorce FAQ

As experts in Family Law, we frequently get asked questions about the new changes to the divorce laws such as;

How does no-fault divorce remove blame?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill aims to reduce the impact that allegations of blame can have on a couple and in particular children. The government made the change in an attempt to remove unnecessary finger-pointing and acrimony from what is already a stressful and emotional time, hopefully sparing children from witnessing their parents fighting to prove one another guilty.

Is no-fault divorce be quicker?

Unfortunately, we have not found no-fault divorce to be quicker as the additional ‘cooling-off’ period now required in the divorce means you have to wait twenty weeks from filing their divorce petition before being able to proceed with an application for a conditional order. A no-fault divorce takes around 8 months to complete.

Is no-fault divorce be cheaper?

Sometimes, yes no-fault divorce can be cheaper by removing the need to assign blame at the start of the divorce helps keep things slightly more civil. This often reduces the amount of disagreement between parties and helps speed up the division process, which as a result can cost less.

Though this is not always the case as sometimes disagreements regarding assets and children can cause even no-fault divorces to take a long time.

Can you make a joint application?

One of the most significant changes under the new system is that couples can now make a joint declaration that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, meaning they can mutually submit the divorce petition.

Why is there a cooling-off period in no-fault divorce?

This ‘cooling-off period’ has been introduced to counter concerns that the reforms would make divorce a quicker and easier option for couples than trying to save their relationship. This gives couples the time to have some breathing space and the opportunity to work through their differences before committing to a divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

There is also the option for couples, instead of divorce, to enter into what is known as a separation agreement. This is a written agreement laying out the terms of a separation, this does not end the marriage or civil partnership, but it can give the couple a chance to agree on the terms of the separation.

Why can you not contest a divorce in England?

Under the new divorce system, a divorce or civil partnership dissolution can only be contested on the basis of jurisdiction. It cannot be contested for any other reason. This is an important change as the amended law prevents one partner from vindictively contesting a divorce and locking their spouse into an unhappy marriage which has previously given power to domestic abusers to challenge the process to further harm their victims or to trap them in the relationship.

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