What is "No Fault Divorce" and why is it such a huge change?

New Divorce and Dissolution Laws

There isn’t long now before the divorce and dissolution processes are totally reformed when the introduction of No Fault Divorce brings the most far reaching changes to divorce in the last 50 years. 

Why are these changes being made?

The aim is to make it easier for couples to manage their separation and work together.  The divorce and dissolution processes are being brought into alignment with the financial remedy court, where conduct is very rarely taken into account.  The current fault based system is thought to increase hostility and discord between parties rather than reduce it.  It is hoped that by eradicating blame from the processes, parties will concentrate less on blame when it comes to agreeing arrangements for their children and resolving the financial aspects of their separation.

So what will actually change?

On 6 April, The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into effect thereby introducing one ground for divorce/dissolution that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  The respondent’s ability to defend the decision to divorce/dissolve is abolished and the only application that can be disputed is on the grounds of jurisdiction, on the validity of the marriage/civil partnership, fraud and procedural compliance.  Removing blame is expected to create a better foundation for discussions concerning child and financial arrangements.

Under current law, irretrievable breakdown must be established by one of five facts, the most common being unreasonable behaviour or adultery. In the absence of blame, couples must have lived apart for two or five years.  Under the new guidance irretrievable breakdown of marriage will be the only fact relied on, meaning there is no longer any need to prove fault or to live apart for at least two years.  The fact that it has broken down will be enough.

The other radical change is that both parties can apply for the divorce/dissolution if agreed, or else one party can apply.  All of these changes underpin a real drive to reduce conflict for separating couples.

The new process is not dissimilar to the current process.  Some of the terminology will be modernised.  The party commencing the proceedings will no longer be known as the petitioner and will instead be known as the applicant.  The petition for the divorce will become known as an application for a divorce order.  The Decree Nisi is now called a Conditional Order and the Decree Absolute is known as a Divorce Order.  The new law provides for a time period of 26 weeks, including the six week period between the Conditional and Divorce Orders as described.   

Our Family team are on hand to support you through any divorce-related matters, so please contact us on 0800 118 1500.