The No Fault Divorce from April 2022

After many years of campaigning for a ‘no fault divorce’, the government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was finally passed in June 2021 with the changes due to come into effect from 6 April 2022.

The new divorce system aims to modernize the divorce process into the 21st Century with the aim of avoiding assigning ‘blame’ to the other spouse, i.e. alleging fault.  The idea is that by introducing a no fault divorce process, this will reduce conflict and its inevitably damaging effect on both the parties’ wellbeing and any children of the relationship.  The breakdown of a marriage/civil partnership is an emotionally draining situation for all couples and applying for divorce relying on the fault of one party under the current system often increases conflict, which then leads to high levels of solicitor involvement and therefore higher legal costs.

Currently under the pre April 2022 divorce regime, couples are required to prove to the court that their marriage/civil partnership has broken down irretrievably due to one of the following five facts:

  • Behaviour;
  • Adultery;
  • 5 Years Separation without consent;
  • 2 Years Separation; or
  • Desertion

As of 6 April 2022, as a result of changes made to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973/Civil Partnership Act 2004 by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, couples will no longer need to prove fault or rely on any of the above five facts.

What will change in April 2022?

  1. The irretrievable breakdown of a marriage/civil partnership will be the sole reason for a couple choosing to file for a divorce.
  2. As well as an individual application supported by a statement, the new law introduces the ability for a couple to provide a signed joint statement confirming that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. In either case, this will be used as conclusive evidence by the court to make an order for divorce and the ability to contest a divorce, dissolution or separation will be removed.
  3. The language using during the divorce process will be updated and simplified: the ‘Decree Nisi’ will become a ‘Conditional Order’ and the ‘Decree Absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’.
  4. There will be a new ’20 week cooling off period’. This means that the new minimum time period from submitting a statement will increase to 20 weeks instead of the previous 6 weeks and 1 day. This allows for both parties time to agree arrangements surrounding the divorce such as finances, property and child arrangements. After this period, a ‘Conditional Order’ is granted by the courts.

What will the above changes mean going forwards?

By removing the blame on one party, it is intended that the new Act will help increase the likelihood of resolving divorce matters outside of court, which will make getting a resolution faster and more cost effective.

If you’re unsure about how the new divorce system will affect you or if you’re thinking about applying for a divorce, our highly experienced team of family lawyers are here to guide you every step of the way to ensure that you reach your desired conclusion.

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