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What is a no-fault divorce?

View profile for Emma Roberts
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Ministers plan divorce law overhaul

A no-fault, or no-blame divorce is a much more straightforward and amicable approach to separation in that couples can now file for divorce or civil partnership dissolution without having to place the blame on their former partner to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or partnership.

What are the main differences?

Before 06 April 2022 it was necessary to provide a reason for the breakdown of the marriage by citing one of five facts:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion by a party
  4. Two years separation with consent of the other party; or
  5. Five years separation without consent of the other party.

It is no longer necessary to cite one of these reasons.

An application can be started by one person as a sole applicant or by the couple together as joint applicants. They do not have to give a reason for the divorce, other than a simple statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is confirmed within the application itself by simply ticking a box.

The option of challenging the application is also now severely limited. There is no opportunity to contest a statement of irretrievable breakdown although there can be a challenge based upon a technicality e.g., jurisdiction or if the marriage was not lawful to start with. However, these situations are going to be very few and far between and only relevant to a very small minority.

The language used in the proceedings has also changed. The person who applied was called the petitioner but is now called the applicant.   The 'decree nisi', the document which confirms the entitlement to a divorce, has become the 'conditional order' and the 'decree absolute', which dissolves the marriage, is now called a 'final order'. 

There is now a mandatory minimum of 20 weeks between starting the proceedings and applying for the conditional order. As before the final order cannot be applied for until at least six weeks after the conditional order.

Will this make the divorce process simpler?

Yes, the legal process is now easier. The new law has several consequences for separating couples, including:

  • No more blame within the divorce application;
  • If both parties agree, they can make a joint application for divorce or dissolution, which can assist with an amicable separation;
  • No one will need to worry about their partner contesting the divorce or dissolution and forcing them to go to court, saving considerable time, cost and stress
  • With the new time scales, most couples will have to wait about six months for their divorce or dissolution to finalise. This time is intended to be a period of reflection for both parties to consider whether they truly want to separate
  • During this time, couples still need to make separate arrangements to:
    • Divide their finances
    • Agree to maintenance payments (if necessary)
    • Sort out child arrangements
    • Agree on an ongoing parenting plan

How does no-fault divorce work?

In a no-fault divorce, either spouse, or both together, can apply to end the marriage without the need to provide evidence of wrongdoing. The application will be granted if the court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, based on the evidence provided.

How to apply for a no fault divorce

To apply for a no-fault divorce, you will need to fill out a divorce application either online or complete a form and file it with the court. You will need to provide information about you and your spouse, your marriage, and the reason for the divorce, i.e. that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. You will also need to provide your Marriage Certificate and pay a court fee unless you are eligible for a fee remission. Once the court receives your application, it will be reviewed, and if everything is in order, the divorce proceedings will begin. It is recommended to seek the advice of a family law solicitor to ensure that the divorce application is completed correctly and to obtain legal advice throughout the divorce process.

When did no-fault divorce begin in the UK?

No-fault divorce legislation came into effect in April 2022 and enables couples to divorce without assigning blame, making the process less acrimonious and more amicable.

How can divorce solicitors help you?

While no-fault divorce should, in theory, make the process of divorce much more straightforward, it is just as important as ever to speak to an expert, who can guide you through the process with practical, sensitive advice.

Whilst the legal process is now easier, there is a real danger that those applying for a divorce themselves may not be fully aware that ending the marriage alone does not bring to an end the financial claims and ties between them. These remain ongoing despite being divorced.  Whilst there are warnings that they also need to sever their finances with the granting of a clean break financial settlement order, there are many who fail to release the risk they face in the future in not doing so.

Whether you are making a sole or joint application, there are several important details that need to be carefully considered, which is where we can assist. Call our family and divorce law team on 0161 696 6193.

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