No Fault Divorce

Posted on: April 4th, 2022

You may or may not be aware that from the 6 April 2022, there is going to be a change in the way that divorces proceed in England and Wales. This is because the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is being brought into effect which aims to make divorce a much easier and less acrimonious process for all parties involved. The new process has been commonly referred to as ‘No Fault Divorce’ and will bring about a modern approach to the current archaic system. 

Currently, in England and Wales, there is one ground for divorce, that being that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To establish this ground, one or more of five facts must be demonstrated. There are three facts based on fault i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour and desertion, and two facts based on a period of separation (two years separation with consent or five years separation without consent). This current process means that in a large percentage of divorce proceedings, blame is assigned to one of the parties which can cause a significant amount of distress and acrimony. 

The reforms and purpose of the ‘no fault divorce’ process is to ease this unnecessary distress and hostility and make things much more simplified. Although under the reforms the sole ground for divorce remains, that being that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, there is no longer a requirement that the party applying for the divorce shows one of the current five facts to support the application. In other words, it removes the need to assign blame. 

Under the reforms, it will not be possible to contest a divorce, which will avoid parties’ from spending substantial amounts of money on litigation costs, defending the divorce.

To commence divorce proceedings, one of the parties can make an application for divorce but alternatively, a revolutionary change to the process means that the divorce can also be applied for on a joint basis, meaning that both parties involved can make an application together which will enable them to both feel that they have had an input in the application. This collaborative working is a huge shift from the current blame-focused process resulting in a ‘no blame divorce’

There has also been a change in the language used in divorce proceedings, as a way of simplifying the process and removing outdated terminology. The first stage in the process is to obtain a conditional order, which was previously known as a decree nisi. The second stage is now referred to as a final order, previously known as a decree absolute. This change makes the process much more ‘user friendly.

Although the new divorce process aims to remove delays in that minimum separation periods have been removed, a divorce still cannot be obtained instantly. A new minimum 20-week period between the start of proceedings and pronouncement of ‘Conditional Order’ has been imposed, which is designed to allow parties to take the time and reflect on whether divorce is what they really intend. This is referred to as a ‘period of reflection’. There is then a further 6-week period between Conditional Order and Final Order.  This means that in practice, even a very straightforward divorce will take no less than six months to achieve.

Regardless, the new reforms are a positive change for those seeking divorce and are welcomed by us at Cygnet Law. 

If you would like advice about divorce or separation and the issues that arise as a result, such as finance and arrangements for children, we have an experienced team who would be pleased to advise and assist. 

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If you require any of our legal services or you're not sure where to get started, please contact us at our Redcar High Street office and our solicitors will guide you every step of the way.

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