No-fault divorce: what you need to know

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No-fault divorce is something our divorce solicitors have been eagerly awaiting since it was formally announced in June 2020. Over the last few months, various ‘teasers’ of legislation have been released, and it now looks like no-fault divorce is set to come into effect on 6th April 2022.

Why is no-fault divorce so groundbreaking?

This monumental change to divorce law means that couples can now formally end their marriage without pointing blame; something that we, as collaborative family lawyers, welcome. Divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional times in someone’s life, and the need to attribute fault to legally end a marriage often only adds to an already challenging situation.

This change in divorce law has also been long-supported by professional organisations such as Resolution, The Law Society and mediators.

The current grounds for divorce

Divorce law currently states that ‘irretrievable breakdown’ is the sole ground for divorce. This has to be supported by one of five facts:

  1. Adultery
  2. Behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Separation of two years (with consent)
  5. Separation of five years (consent not required)

The new no-fault law means that couples wishing to divorce will only have to confirm that the marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’, but without having to back this up with one of the above five facts.

How will no-fault divorce work?

From 6th April, separating couples will be able to apply for a divorce on a sole or joint basis without basing their application on adultery, behaviour, desertion or separation.

It will also no longer be possible to contest a divorce petition.

Once the divorce process has started and an application has been submitted, the family court will impose a 20-week wait. This is an important addition as it allows couples to have a period to consider if they really do want to progress with the divorce. It may sound like overkill and many couples will have been considering divorce for some time, however, the lawmakers were worried that some couples might apply for a divorce after little thought (perhaps after an argument when emotions are heightened) and once the formal application had been submitted, couples might realise that divorce may not be the right solution. This is not our experience of how people reach the very painful decision to separate or divorce.

After the 20 week ‘cooling-off period’, each party will be required to submit a statement confirming that they want to formally end their relationship and continue with the divorce.

In terms of practicalities, there will be a new divorce application and some of the words that we currently use will be changed. For example, a Decree Nisi will be known as a Conditional Order and a Decree Absolute will be known as a Final Order.

Can any family solicitor advise on a no-fault divorce?

All solicitors who specialise in divorce and separation will be able to advise on no-fault divorce. However, the new process will not change how the courts deal with financial and child arrangements. These are the areas where lawyers can usually assist the most.

What are the pros and cons of a no-blame divorce?

It goes without saying that a no-fault divorce should make the process of separation less hostile. Up to now, the need to attribute blame has been incredibly difficult for many couples to contemplate, particularly those who simply want to end their marriage after they have grown apart

The new no-blame divorce sounds like a much better system than the one we currently have but we may not see the full effects of these changes for some time. For example, it could be argued that if one party has committed adultery or behaved unreasonably, they should be held accountable by the other party. The no-fault element may well remove the often misplaced belief that those who have been subject to bad treatment by their partner will ‘get justice’ by calling out the bad behaviour in the petition.

Further information

As we enter into this new chapter for divorce law, our family law solicitors will be keeping a close eye on further developments and the effects of no-fault divorce.

If you are seeking advice on starting or responding to a divorce, we are here to help. To get in touch with our expert divorce solicitors, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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