What is no-fault divorce?

Previously, in order to obtain a divorce one party would be blamed for the breakdown of the marriage, in April 2022 no-fault divorce was introduced in England and Wales that removes the need for blame as a basis for divorce.

Can you get a no-fault divorce in the UK?

No-fault divorce is available to those that are habitually resident in England and Wales. Please refer to alternative guidance for the rest of the UK.

The process will allow both parties to make an application to the court for a divorce on the grounds that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Once this has been issued by the court, a minimum of 20 weeks must have passed for the applicant to confirm that they would like to move forward with the divorce. Following this, the court will grant a Conditional Order (this was previously known as the Decree Nisi). After a minimum of 6 weeks from the Conditional Order, the court can then make the Final Order (previously known as the Decree Absolute), this will be the point in which you are officially divorced.

What was the divorce process before the no fault divorce law was introduced in the UK?

The previous no fault divorce law stated that regardless of the reason for the breakdown of the marriage and even if no wrongdoing had taken place, it was a legal requirement to assign blame to one party for the divorce to proceed. If the parties were not willing to assign blame, the parties had to wait until they had been separated for 2 years (which requires the consent of both) or 5 years. Below are the five grounds in which you were required to rely on to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage:

  1. Behaviour – This was the most used ground as this can include many types of behaviour. In order to rely on this, you were required to provide details and examples of the behaviour.

  1. Adultery – One party has committed adultery but to rely on this ground, you did require the consent and agreement that they did have sex with someone else or for the applying party to be able to prove the adultery.

  1. Separation 2 years – You have been separated for 2 years and both parties consent to the divorce.

  1. Separation 5 years – You have been separated for 5 years.

  1. Desertion – One party has abandoned the marriage.

How is no-fault divorce different?

No-fault divorce requires no justification that the marriage has ended and you are no longer required to blame the other party.

The biggest change is that you and your ex-spouse can submit a joint application for divorce. However, as before, you are unable to apply for a divorce until you have been married for 1 year.

Why is no-fault divorce being introduced in the UK?

Assigning blame can be an extremely contentious part of the divorce and has in many cases meant parties cannot divorce. In addition, many marriages may end due to a combination of factors and it is a mutual decision to divorce. No-fault divorce encourages an amicable and collaborative process.

What does no-fault divorce mean for separating couples?

No-fault divorce will allow separating couples to start the process in a harmonious manner which allows them to focus on important issues following on from the separation which includes finances and children.

How long will a no-fault divorce take?

We are estimating that the process will take between 6-8 months. The new process will technically take a minimum of 26 weeks but we have to consider the time needed for the court to process the paperwork and any negotiations required.

How much does no-fault divorce cost?

The court fee to issue the divorce petition is £593, this will be in addition to any legal fees that you incur in making the application.

What are the benefits of a no-fault divorce?

Here at Cordell & Cordell we have analysed the new law process and how this will affect our client’s mental and physical well-being and believe it will have the following benefits:

  • that blame is no longer required which significantly reduces conflict and means the divorce can proceed without ‘mud-slinging’ and allows the rest of the process to proceed positively.
  • You no longer are required to air sensitive details that have led to the breakdown of the marriage. Whilst these divorce proceedings are confidential, parties have concerns that the other may disclose details of the divorce to third parties.
  • Given the amicable approach of no-fault divorce, this can lead to a better and more positive environment for the children of the marriage.
  • If you are unable to blame the other party, this no longer means you have to wait 2 or 5 years separation and can ensure parties do not feel trapped in a marriage.

Are there any disadvantages to the new no-fault divorce law?

As we have discussed above, whilst the intention of the new process is to simplify the process and have less impact to the parties, in some cases a party may feel it fails to hold the other party accountable for any unreasonable behaviour. This may be difficult for the other party who may feel that justice has not been served.

How will a no-fault divorce affect financial settlements?

As before, a divorce does not automatically dismiss financial claims and commitments to each other, and you continue to require a legally binding financial order to dismiss those particular claims against the other. The new process does not change or impact this, nor does it impact the financial entitlement you each have.

How can a lawyer help with a no-fault divorce?

It is important before starting any legal divorce proceedings that you consult a lawyer and obtain legal advice. A lawyer can assist you with the process and ensure that the process for you is as simple and hassle-free. Please get in touch with Cordell & Cordell today.