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No-fault Divorce Ends The Blame Game - What Do I Need To Know?

The government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has drastically reformed the divorce process by removing the concept of fault with the aim of simplifying the proceedings and helping couples avoid unnecessary acrimony. 

It is now no longer necessary – or even possible for either party to prove ‘fault’ or have from 2 to 5 years of separation in order to obtain a divorce. This is part of the new no-fault divorce law that aims to end the ‘blame game’ that blighted the old divorce process.

The new divorce law allows for a divorce without either party attributing fault or waiting for lengthy separation periods. One person or a couple jointly can make a simple statement of irretrievable breakdown without giving any reasons.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do Both Parties Have To Agree To A No Fault Divorce?

    It is no longer possible to submit a divorce application under the old divorce system, which means you no longer can or need to apportion blame or fault on your partner to start divorce proceedings.

    Following the new divorce law which came into effect on 6th April 2022 in England and Wales, there is now very little a spouse can do to contest an unwanted divorce.

    This welcome change means that domestic abusers will no longer be able to contest and ‘trap’ a spouse in an unwanted marriage for five years plus.

    How Does 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. However, the definition of an irretrievable breakdown has expanded to include two key changes.

    The new law now allows for a joint statement, again increasing the opportunities for a mutual split to avoid artificial imbalances.

    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.

    Divorce Process Timeline Explained for 2022.

    How Much Does a No-fault Divorce Cost?

    If the court fee stays the same, the minimum cost of getting a no-fault divorce will be £593. However, not everyone can do their own divorce and therefore, the average cost of a divorce is likely to be £772 – £1,500 even after the divorce law changes.

    How Long Does a No-fault Divorce Take?

    No-fault divorce is not some quickie divorce scheme designed to end a marriage instantly.

    In fact, the new divorce law will actually take longer to complete than the previous divorce law.

    The government has introduced a 20-week (minimum) reflection period and a further 6 week wait to end your marriage, which means in total, a no-fault divorce will take around 6 to 7 months to complete.

    Can a No-fault Divorce be Contested?

    Another key change to the divorce law means that a spouse cannot contest a divorce, which means that a divorce will now be granted by a Judge solely on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

    Why Did The Previous Divorce Law Need To Be Changed?

    Under the previous system if you couldn’t or wouldn’t allege fault, you could only get divorced once you’ had been separated for two years if both spouses agreed to the divorce, or five years if one spouse refused. Therefore supporters of the changes argued that the previous system has several major flaws.

    For example, if a couple wanted a quick divorce without delay, they had to agree between themselves as to who will “take the blame.”

    Even though it was just a legal formality, working out who this should be and the details to present to the court could be an awkward and emotional process. It could even lead to resentment that spilt over into the negotiations about financial settlements and childcare.

    Many couples also found that it simply wasn’t financially viable to live as two separate households for at least two years before starting divorce proceedings and formally reaching a financial settlement.

    Another problem was where one spouse no longer wanted to be in the marriage but the other refused to accept it was over.

    The high bar for proving unreasonable behaviour meant one spouse could often drag out the divorce process until not only had the other left the marital home, but five years had passed.

    What Happens If My Ex-Partner Doesn’t Want To Divorce?

    In the past, you would need to wait for a period of 5 years of separation to be granted a divorce if your ex-partner was unwilling to comply, unless you were happy to apportion blame.

    Under the new divorce law, you can now file for divorce after 12 months of marriage regardless of whether your husband or wife agreesproviding that the marriage has broken down beyond repair.

    Will No-fault Divorce Affect Financial Settlements?

    Many divorcing couples still believe that if one spouse is proved to be at fault for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage it can result in a better financial settlement for the “wronged” spouse. But for the most part, the actions of either spouse generally have no bearing upon the terms of a financial settlement.

    This was the case under the old system and still remains the same.

    Even where negotiations over finances ended up in court, the judge would rarely place any weight upon the fault of either party for causing the divorce.

    Therefore, since fault for the irretrievable breakdown of marriage did not affect the terms of a financial settlement prior to the change of the rules, then removing the “fault” aspect of divorce under the new legislation, will not have any obvious effect on financial settlements in the future.

    Does The New Divorce Law Affect Financial Settlements?

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