What will the introduction of no-fault divorce mean?

The new ‘no-fault divorce’ law comes into force TODAY, removing the need for couples to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. 

The new law is intended to help promote a more constructive approach to the ending of a relationship, and remove the ‘blame culture’. No-fault divorce will apply to both divorce and civil partnership dissolution. 

Reforming divorce law 

Traditionally, a couple needed to prove that their relationship had irretrievably broken down in order to obtain a divorce. There were five ways in which this could be demonstrated to the court: 

  • Unreasonable behaviour 
  • Adultery (this option is not available in respect of a civil partnership) 
  • Separation for a period of at least two years, where both parties consent to the divorce 
  • Separation for a period of at least five years, where one party does not consent 
  • Desertion for at least two years 

The need to allege one of these five facts was often the cause of tension, and regularly prevented a couple from dealing with their divorce in an amicable way. 

The divorce law reforms aim to remove this potential for discord from the process and allow couples to separate amicably as far as possible. 

The new no-fault divorce law 

The new law, to be known as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, will come into force today, on 6 April 2022.  

There is still a single ground on which a divorce or dissolution can be obtained, namely the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. However, there is no longer any need to demonstrate this by proving any of the five facts currently required or citing any particular behaviour. 

Instead, an individual is now able to make an application to the court simply stating that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. Couples can also submit a joint application if they wish. The application can be made online. 

Following the application, there will be a period of at least 20 weeks before a Conditional Order will be made by the court. This replaces the decree nisi and is the interim stage of a divorce. Six weeks after the issue of a Conditional Order, application can be made for a Final Order, which is the equivalent of the existing decree absolute and which will end the legal relationship. 

Dealing with other issues 

It is still crucial that couples deal with other issues, such as arrangements for children and financial arrangements. Generally, it is recommended that agreements should be made before a divorce or dissolution is finalised. As an experienced family lawyer, I am able to guide you through the process to ensure that each step is dealt with and your interests are protected. 

Contact me 

I am happy to have an initial confidential conversation on a complimentary basis so please get in contact, call me on 020 4542 7001 or email at Julie.taylor@spencer-west.com