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On 6th April 2022, the family law system saw its biggest change in 50 years.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reformed the divorce process by allowing separating couples to apply for a divorce based on the fact their marriage has irretrievably broken down due to irreconcilable differences. In effect, this is a no-fault divorce.

But what is a no fault divorce, how do they work, and what are the latest no fault divorce statistics? Find out here.

No Fault Divorce Law - What's Changed?

The new legislation makes for four major changes:

Replacing the ‘Five Grounds’

The new legislation replaces the ‘five grounds’ of divorce such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or separation for a period of time and allows couples to divorce without assigning fault.

The fact that separating couples had to be separated for a certain period or provide specific reasons often led to a contentious and blame filled process, causing additional emotional strain is no longer necessary. With the no fault divorce law, separating couples can now state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, allowing them to focus on approaching negotiations in respect of finances and children in a more amicable way.

2. No Possibility of Contesting Divorce

The application will only be able to be disputed if the validity of the marriage or the jurisdiction of the court is in question.

This change prevents individuals from being trapped in a marriage they wish to end and eliminates the ability of abusive spouses to prolong the divorce process as a tactic of control.

3. An Option for a Joint Application

This allows separating couples to complete the application together if they wish to do so, so neither party has to be the initiator. This helps parties stay amicable, as there is no blame being placed in order to carry out the divorce.

4. More Understandable Language

The updated language and clearer terminology aim to provide a more accessible and understandable legal framework. For example, the term ‘petitioner’ has been replaced with ‘applicant’, ‘decree nisi’ is now called a ‘conditional order’, and the ‘decree absolute’ is referred to as a ‘final order’.


The No Fault Divorce Process

Under the new law, after the divorce petition has been made, separating couples must wait 20 weeks minimum before they can apply for what is known as a Conditional Order (previously known as the Decree Nisi). This waiting period is to allow parties a period of reflection to ensure that they are making the right decision.

Once the Conditional Order has been granted, there will be a period of six weeks and one day before the Final Order (previously Decree Absolute) can be applied for.

The purpose of extending the overall timeframe was to:

  • Give parties an increased period of reflection to ensure that they are making the right decision.
  • Provide the parties with a good opportunity to come to an agreement for the future in regard to finances and any child arrangements.

Although the divorce process takes a minimum of 26 weeks, the time each individual application can take will vary depending on the complexity of the parties’ financial circumstances. A Final Order should not be applied for until an agreement in respect of finances has been reached.


Divorce Rates Since the No Fault Divorce Act

In September 2023, the Law Society provided an update on no fault divorce. The Law Society confirmed that the latest data shows that in the nine months from when the new law came into effect:

  • There were 89,123 divorce applications, consisting of 78% from sole applicants and 22% from joint applicants.
  • The average time for divorce proceedings to be completed increased to 38 weeks.
  • 94% of all divorce applications were digital in 2022.

Clearly, separating couples are making use of the new legal process.


Finalise Your Divorce with Howells Solicitors

While the no-fault divorce process is designed to be amicable and less complicated, legal representation remains crucial. Divorce is a legally binding process, and once the terms are agreed upon, they cannot be changed.

Our team of family law and divorce solicitors can help navigate the complexities of the process and provide support for you during this difficult time.

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