No Fault Divorce UK: The New Divorce Law Explained
The introduction of no-fault divorce in the UK has revolutionised the way couples can end their marriages. This groundbreaking change allows couples to obtain a divorce without having to assign blame or prove wrongdoing by either party.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key aspects of no-fault divorce in the UK, including its benefits, potential disadvantages, and the process involved.
Whether you are considering a divorce or simply want to understand the new law, this guide will provide you with the necessary information.
What is No-Fault Divorce? (Short answer!)
Put simply, no-fault divorce is a simplified divorce procedure that aims to reduce conflict by removing the need to blame your spouse for the breakdown of the marriage.
A no-fault divorce is granted on ‘irreconcilable differences’, not separation grounds or fault-based reasons.
This type of divorce is sometimes referred to as a no blame divorce.
How Does No Fault Divorce Work?
To apply for a no fault divorce in England and Wales, you need to include a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’ on the divorce application form. This statement tells the court that the marriage has broken down beyond repair and cannot continue.
Couples can file for divorce or civil partner dissolution without having to place the blame on their former partner to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The Problems With No-Fault Divorce
Many separating couples are getting caught out by believing that by going through the divorce process, financial settlements are sorted – this is unfortunately a common myth.
The perception that no-fault divorce is easy and quick can make couples less likely to discuss the financial settlement. Obtaining a Final Order only ends your marriage, it does not deal with the financial ties that come with marriage.
One of the criticisms of no-fault divorce is that the new divorce law made no changes in relation to how financial settlements work.
Here are some of the advantages:
- Simplified Process – Couples no longer have to engage in legal battles to prove fault, making the entire divorce process smoother and less contentious.
- Reduced Conflict – The elimination of blame removes the need for one party to accuse the other of misconduct, which often leads to heightened emotions and animosity.
- Time and Cost Savings – The simplified process reduces the need for lengthy legal battles, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
- More Focus on Reconciliation – The new law includes a minimum waiting period of 20 weeks between the application and the ability to apply for a Conditional Order. This extended period allows couples to reflect on their decision and explore the possibility of reconciliation before finalising the divorce.
- Longer Waiting Period – The new law includes a minimum waiting period of 20 weeks between the application and the ability to apply for a Conditional Order. This extended waiting period may be frustrating for couples who want to finalise a quick divorce.
- Lack of Accountability – With no requirement to assign blame, some individuals may feel that their spouse’s behavior or actions played a significant role in the breakdown of the marriage.
- Limited Legal Remedies – The courts have fewer legal remedies to prevent a divorce from proceeding. Defending a divorce application now involves legal technicalities rather than contesting the grounds for divorce based on the contents of the application.
No-Fault Divorce Timeline – The 4 Steps In a Divorce
1.Application for Divorce (or Civil Partnership Dissolution)
Under the previous divorce law, couples wanting to divorce had to establish grounds for divorce to evidence that their marriage had irretrievably broken down.
Three of these facts were fault-based (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, and desertion), and the other two grounds were related to periods of separation – two years with consent and five years without consent.
If parties are in agreement to the divorce, they can make a joint application for divorce to end their marriage. Of course, you can still make a sole application for divorce.
You can apply for a divorce online or by post, with the applicable Court fee of £593.
3. Conditional Order
Once your application has been issued with the court, the 20-week reflection period begins.
The Conditional Order essentially confirms that the Court will proceed with your divorce. If approved by a Judge, you will be sent a certificate, which will tell you the time and date on which you will be granted a Conditional Order.
4. The Final Order
After the Conditional Order date, you now need to wait a further 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) before you can apply for a Final Order. The Final Order legally ends your marriage.
If you applied for a financial consent order alongside the divorce, it should become legally binding providing the Judge is happy with the agreement.
Why Did The UK Need a No Fault Divorce Law?
For many years, divorce law in the UK required couples to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage, leading to unnecessary conflict and acrimony.
The previous system forced individuals to make accusations against their spouse’s conduct, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or face years of separation before a divorce could be granted.
This adversarial approach hindered couples from focusing on important practical decisions concerning children, finances, and their future.
Additionally, it created opportunities for vindictive contestation and the potential for abusive partners to further harm their victims or trap them in unhappy marriages.
The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020 Explained
The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020 represents a significant reform in divorce law, putting an end to the blame game and introducing a more compassionate and forward-looking approach to divorce.
The Act eliminates the need for couples to apportion blame and instead allows them to apply for a divorce by stating that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.
This removes unnecessary conflict and finger-pointing, reducing stress on couples and sparing children from witnessing their parents mudslinging.
1. Joint Applications: A Collaborative Approach
Under the new legislation, couples now have the option to make joint applications for divorce or civil partnership dissolution.
This means that both parties can agree that the relationship has irretrievably broken down without having to place blame on one another.
Joint divorce applications encourage a more collaborative and amicable separation process, enabling couples to work together to reach mutually beneficial agreements on important matters such as child custody, financial arrangements, and property division.
2. Simplifying Language
New terminology has been introduced to make the process more understandable and accessible.
For instance, the term “Decree Nisi” has been replaced with “Conditional Order,” while “Decree Absolute” is now referred to as “Final Order.”
The person filing for divorce was previously known as the Petitioner, this has been updated to ‘Applicant’.
These changes aim to demystify the legal language surrounding divorce, ensuring that individuals can navigate the process with clarity and confidence.
3. No Contest: Streamlining the Process
One of the significant developments brought about by the new legislation is the removal of the ability to contest a divorce, dissolution, or separation.
Previously, a spouse could contest a divorce, potentially prolonging the process and causing additional stress and expense.
However, under the no fault divorce system, a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is considered conclusive evidence, except on limited technical grounds.
This streamlines the process, allowing couples to move forward with their lives without the fear of being trapped in a marriage against their will.
4. 20-Weeks Minimum Waiting Period
To provide couples with an opportunity for reflection and potential reconciliation, the new law introduced a minimum waiting period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to the issuance of a conditional order of divorce.
This waiting period allows couples to consider their situation, seek mediation if needed, and make important arrangements for the future, including child custody, financial matters, and property division.
It aims to ensure that couples have sufficient time to make informed decisions and minimise the potential for hasty and regrettable actions.
This gives couples more time to discuss their financial settlement and make arrangements for a solicitor to draft a financial order.
Sole Applications vs. Joint Divorce
On April 6 2022 when no-fault divorce became law, a new concept for divorce was introduced. From this point on, couples can complete the divorce process together, known as a joint divorce application.
Is this new concept being used by divorcing couples? Well, since its introduction there have been over 105,000 applications for divorce. Of those, 25,000 have opted for a joint divorce, which equates to roughly 24%.
This shows that couples are taking up the new option for a simpler and more amicable divorce process, where both parties are required to give consent at each stage.
Questions people commonly ask…
How does a no-fault divorce work?
In June 2020, Parliament passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which is now an act of Parliament.
The new law has retained the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce. However, the requirement to specify one of the five grounds for divorce is replaced with a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’ – thereby eliminating the requirement to administer any blame.
The basis of the new law remains the same: divorce is only possible when a marriage has irretrievably broken down.
The relevant laws on the dissolution of a civil partnership will also be updated. The idea is that broadly the same system and principles, complete with the no-fault declaration of irretrievable breakdown, will apply to both divorce and civil partnership dissolution.
How much does a no-fault divorce cost?
The cost of getting a divorce is not a simple question to answer, simply because there are various caveats, such as solicitors fees, court fees, and the complexity of your finances.
However, in the simplest of terms, a divorce in England and Wales will cost a minimum of £593, which is the mandatory court fee unless you’re on a low income or receive certain benefits.
How long does a no-fault divorce take?
The divorce process will take a minimum of 7 months, assuming that all paperwork is processed correctly and efficiently. The new laws were never supposed to encourage quick divorces.
Is no-fault good for separating couples?
In our opinion, no fault divorce is a good thing.
We help amicable couples end their marriage without the financial burden of solicitors fees and without the stress and hassle of doing it themselves.
The blame game, which the previous law encouraged has been scrapped, which can only be a good thing. Couples can spend more time discussing important matters, for example, where any children are going to live and how the matrimonial home is to be split.
Ready to Initiate a Divorce?
To initiate the no-fault divorce process, either one party or both parties can give notice of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage by completing an application.
This application replaces the previous divorce petition and requires a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The court fee for issuing a divorce application is currently £593.
No-fault divorce has fundamentally changed how couples get divorced, so it’s understandable if you’re unsure how to get started.
Most couples don’t require the assistance of family law solicitors outside of the initial legal advice. Ready to start your divorce online?