In April 2022, the introduction of the long awaited ‘no fault divorce’ came into effect in UK divorce law. Since then, separated couples are able to apply for a divorce without having to assign blame for the breakdown of the marriage, as they did before no-fault divorce was introduced. This change also affects civil partnerships.
In this article, we explain no fault divorce, which came into effect in England and Wales on 6 April 2022.
No Fault Divorce Explained
Before April 2022, to be granted a divorce the court needed to be convinced that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, to a point where it can’t be saved.
Couples had to assign a reason for why they were applying for divorce. Whilst couples will still be required to demonstrate the breakdown of the marriage, they will now be able to do so by way of a “statement of irretrievable breakdown”.
Under the old divorce system, unless a couple lived separately for more than 2 years and both gave their consent to the divorce or lived separately for more than 5 years, they could only apply for a divorce if one person blamed the other for the breakdown of their marriage. And the reason for this had to fall into the category of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. These blame-based options were two of five legally recognised reasons for the breakdown of a marriage under the previous divorce system.
Below are changes to divorce law since the introduction of no fault divorce:
It removes the ‘blame game’
The most important change with ‘no fault divorce’ is the removal of fault or blame from the divorce process. Under the new system, couples can get divorced on the basis that the marriage has broken down, without needing to assign one of the 5 reasons for divorce, as was previously required. Under the ‘no fault divorce’ system, there isn’t a requirement for one person to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership.
This has proven to be a positive step with our clients, as the requirement to assign blame often causes hostility and can make the divorce process more difficult to resolve. Removing the blame game can remove the likelihood of complex, long legal battles in court.
Couples can apply for divorce together
Under the old divorce laws, one person needed to issue divorce proceedings against the other. Under the new no fault divorce system, the application can either be made by one person or both people can make the application jointly.
We suggest seeking legal advice before proceeding with a joint divorce.
A 26 week time frame has been introduced
There is now a minimum timeframe of 26 weeks between the divorce application and final order. This gives a ‘period of reflection’ which gives couples an opportunity to reflect and work through their differences before committing to a divorce or civil partnership dissolution.
This new change has made it more important to seek expert advice as this introduction may cause a delay on the length of the divorce process and it may impact on any financial settlement agreements.
You can no longer contest a divorce
Under the new divorce system, a divorce or civil partnership dissolution can only be contested except in extremely limited circumstances which the court feels compelled to investigate further. For example, a person may still defend divorce proceedings if they argue that the country in which the court proceedings are taking place does not have the jurisdiction to do so.
What are the benefits of a no fault divorce?
Easier to achieve an amicable divorce
In many cases, couples want to divorce because the love has been lost within the marriage, or circumstances have changed to such an extent that people wish to go their separate ways. The no fault divorce means there will no longer be a need to engage in any “blame game” and it should increase the chance of an amicable divorce.
The divorce process may be quicker
No-fault divorce will help those couples that have previously found themselves having to wait 2 years to obtain a divorce if nobody was necessarily at fault. People will no longer have to wait 2 years, which often made them feel in limbo.
No one can contest the divorce
The new law will also remove the ability for one spouse to contest the decision to divorce just because they do not agree with the reasons, therefore avoiding lengthy and unnecessary contested court proceedings.
It also may help those parties stuck in abusive and controlling relationships leave their partner. Previously, abusive partners were able to use their ability to contest the divorce to keep their partner in the relationship, but this is no longer the case. It will also allow the abusee to leave the relationship without having to make allegations about the abuser, ultimately making it an easier way out of the relationship.
It removes any inequality
It will remove any inequality in the law for same-sex partners who previously could not rely on the ground of adultery, putting all persons on an equal footing when obtaining a divorce.
The new process is generally more accessible to most people. The new process has seen the removal of words such as decree nisi’ and ‘decree absolute’, replacing with ‘conditional order’ and ‘final order’ which are plain English and easier for those who are not familiar with legal jargon to understand.
It’s better for families with children
It will help to ensure that issues arising from a divorce, such as child arrangements and settling finances, can be dealt with from a position whereby nobody is blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage, resulting in a more amicable separation all round.
Alongside this, it is well argued that the no fault divorce removes a lot of the stress and tension that children may be exposed to when their parents/guardians go through the process. Taking away the tension and the need to focus on the faults in a relationship will enable parties to find the negotiation of important factors involved in separation a much easier process. For example, agreeing to the process involved in the care of their children, benefits both the separating parties and the children involved.
If you are separated and looking to get a divorce, our team of experts are here to help. We know it can be worrying contacting a divorce solicitor, but you’ll find our team approachable and easy to talk to. We also offer a free 30 minute appointment to all new clients.
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