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No fault divorce UK - what is no-fault divorce?

Everything you need to know about no fault divorce in the UK

For a free 30-minute initial chat with one of our divorce lawyers, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.

On 6 April 2022, no fault divorce was introduced in England and Wales. This is part of a number of changes to UK divorce law brought in by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which were effective from this date.

No fault divorce allows couples to end their marriage or civil partnership without having to blame each other for the breakdown of their relationship. It also removes the possibility of one spouse contesting the divorce, which can potentially leave the other spouse waiting years to be able to have an uncontested divorce.

The changes to UK divorce law significantly alter and simplify the process of getting divorced in England and Wales, while also applying to civil partnership dissolution. If you are considering getting divorced, it is important to understand the changes that are being made and how they will impact your divorce.

In this guide, we cover:

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For a free 30-minute initial chat with one of our divorce lawyers, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.

When will no fault divorce begin in the UK ?

The new law was implemented on 6th April 2022. Under this new law, couples no longer need to use one of the five facts for divorce (desertion, adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent or 5 years separation without consent), instead they make a declaration that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

What does a no fault divorce mean ?

The new divorce law simplifies the process of divorce and removes the option to contest the divorce. The main changes are detailed below:

  • The parties need only produce a statement of irretrievable breakdown – no blame will be apportioned
  • An application for divorce can be made jointly or by a sole applicant
  • The option of contesting the divorce has been removed
  • Terminology has changed: Decree Nisi is now a Conditional Order and Decree Absolute a Final Order.
  • There is now a period of reflection – a minimum of 20 weeks – from when the application for divorce is made to when a Conditional Order can be made. This provides a period of reflection for the parties to consider their decision.

Why did we need no fault divorce ?

As the old process of divorce required one party to divorce the other and provide reasons for their desire to divorce, it was difficult to focus on moving forward without conflict.

Old divorce law (prior to 6 April 2022) dates from the 1970s and did not adequately reflect modern society and introduced an unnecessary element of delay or conflict in the divorce process. For example, in the case of unreasonable behaviour, the petitioner was required to produce a statement of reasons that they no longer wanted to be married.

These reasons often upset or angered the other party and caused them to dispute them, delaying the process or, in the worst case denying the divorce completely. This happened in the case of Mrs Tina Owens, who was denied a divorce by the courts when her husband refused to accept claims of unreasonable behaviour and a judge refused to dissolve the marriage.

For parents getting divorced, the old system required people to focus on what a bad partner they had, which makes it twice as difficult to focus on what a good parent they can be.

Without the need for blame to be apportioned, it is likely that the process will be less upsetting for many, helping children get through a very difficult time. While the change in the law is not a silver bullet, it will certainly help avoid increased conflict. It will also help the co-parenting that will need to take place even after the marriage has been dissolved.

How a lawyer will help with a no fault divorce

The role of the divorce lawyer hasn’t really changed, they still have a role in:

  • Advising on how finances should be divided on divorce, including things like how the family home will be dealt with, how pensions and other savings and investments might be split and whether there is a requirement for maintenance payments.
  • Preparing documents, for example, the consent order to create a legally binding financial agreement between the parties.
  • Advising on entitlements and helping to negotiate. If no agreement can be reached, your solicitor will advise as to the merits of issuing court proceedings and will represent you within these proceedings.
  • Implementing orders, whether by consent or decided by the court.
  • Advising and supporting parents who are in dispute to reach arrangements about how they will care for their children.
  • Preparing cases to be presented to the court and conducting the proceedings where disputes cannot be settled.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but illustrates that the divorce itself may only be a small part of the legal process of relationship breakdown.

How long does it take for no fault divorce ?

Since the 6th April 2022 you have been able to apply for divorce under the new law. The process is as follows:

  • Single or joint application for a divorce order made
  • 20 weeks later, and having confirmed that the applicant or applicants still wish to go ahead, the Conditional Order will be made by the court
  • 6 weeks later, the Final Order will be made.

In total, therefore, a no fault divorce will take around 7 – 10 months.

Summary of key changes to divorce law in 2022

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was enacted on 25th June 2020 and makes amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. As mentioned above, these changes came into effect in England and Wales on 6 April 2022.

Key changes to divorce law in England and Wales being introduced are set out below:

Divorce law (prior to 6 April 2022) No-fault divorce (since 6th April 2022)
Prove 1 of 5 facts to demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In the case of Adultery or Unreasonable Behaviour, this will mean making claims against the other party or producing evidence. Produce a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, no requirement for proof.
One party applies for the divorce (as the petitioner) against the other party, introducing an element of blame. Either or both parties may apply for a divorce order.
If the other party (known as the respondent) disagrees with the divorce or the facts being relied upon, they can contest the divorce. The opportunity to contest the divorce is removed.
6-week cooling off period between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute. This is the same, although terminology will change to Conditional Order and Final Order
Judge is required to consider whether the facts are sufficient and proven before accepting the divorce petition. Court must accept the statement and make a divorce order.
Any financial settlement between the parties or arrangement over the care of their children should be finalised ideally before Decree Absolute. Minimum 20-weeks period from the application for divorce to when the Conditional Order can be made introduced. This is intended to allow a period of reflection and time to resolve financial and children matters.


Our no fault divorce lawyers nationwide are here for you

While no fault divorce should remove a lot of potential for tension during divorce proceedings, going through a divorce can still be very stressful with a lot of important issues to consider. Our team are here to guide you and make sure your divorce works for you and that you achieve the right separation for yourself and your loved ones.

Call Woolley & Co, family lawyers on 0800 321 3832 to arrange a telephone appointment with one of our family law experts, or complete our online form

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