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No fault divorce - what is different?

View profile for Jessica Macaulay
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Ministers plan divorce law overhaul

The legislation Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is to come into effect on 6 April 2022. It is said to be the biggest change to the to the divorce system in decades and introduces no fault divorce. This means that one party does not need to prove that the other parties is to blame or at fault for the breakdown of a marriage.

Current divorce process

Currently a divorce can only be granted if the court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and one party is to “blame”. Under the current laws, there are five legally recognised reasons for the breakdown of a marriage which are as follows:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion – if your spouse has left you for at least 2 years
  4. Separation for at least 2 years – must be agreed by both
  5. Separation for at least 5 years – can be made without agreement

What is no fault divorce?

The key part of the new law removes the need for one party to prove that the marriage has broken down for one of the five above reasons. The overarching aim is to remove the “blame-game” with a hope to remove conflict and acrimony between the parties. No further evidence is needed beyond a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.


Under the current system, if one person files for divorce this can be contested by their spouse. The new laws removes the ability to contest a divorce or dissolution if a non-fault based divorce is pursued therefore, a party will not be forced into potentially lengthy and costly court proceedings trying to pursue the divorce. However, the terms of the divorce may still be contested by a party.

The new legislation makes it possible for the application for divorce to be made jointly, rather than one person filing for divorce. Therefore, if both parties agree to the divorce then a joint application can be made.

Divorce terminology

Some of the terminology has changed. The person filing an application for divorce will no longer be known as the petitioner but rather the applicant.

Decree Nisi will now become a “Conditional Order” and Decree Absolute will be called the “Final Order”.

Divorce timescales

Once an application has been made, the applicant will need to wait for a minimum of 20 weeks between the divorce application being issued and the court granting the Conditional Order. This is known as a “period of reflection” which allows the parties a period to consider and reflect upon the decision and gives them an opportunity to try to work through their differences with a view to reconciliation.

Following this minimum 20-week period, if one person is still wanting to proceed with the divorce, the Condition Order will be granted.

Once a Conditional Order has been issued there will then be a minimum 6-week period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order.

If you would like to speak to a member of our specialist divorce solicitors team please call us on 0161 696 6193.