The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent and was passed in June 2020 and will reform the law on divorce, dissolution and separation from 6 April 2022. One of the main aims of the reform is to reduce the impact that conflict and blame can have on families going through a divorce, dissolution or separation.
Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP commented that reforms will “stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another and instead help them focus on separating amicably”.
He explained: “By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”
What is a No-Fault Divorce?
A no fault divorce is a divorce in which neither party needs to place blame for the breakdown of the marriage on the other. The traditional system of a divorce, which has been in place since 1973, calls for a spouse to make accusations and place blame about the other’s conduct or behaviour throughout the marriage. A spouse would need to accuse the other of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion. If none of these accusations can be made, then the couple would need to separate for a minimum of two-five years before the divorce can be granted.
The new law will remove the need to blame or accuse, instead only asking one or both spouses to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The reform also removes the option for the other party to contest the divorce. Some supporters of the new legislation sited that this facet of the traditional divorce has allowed domestic abusers to further coerce and control their victim by manipulating the divorce.
How long does a no fault divorce take?
A no fault divorce is estimated to take between 26-30 weeks including the Conditional Order (20 weeks) and Final Order (6 weeks).
No Fault Divorce Conditional Order – 20 weeks
The new No Fault Divorce will include a ‘cooling off period’ of 20 weeks. This allows both spouses to agree to practical arrangements surrounding the separation and seek counselling and meditation as a final attempt to salvage the marriage. Once the 20 weeks have passed, the conditional order (formerly Decree Nisi) will be granted by the courts.
No Fault Divorce Final Order – 6 weeks
Following the conditional order, an additional 6 weeks will need to pass before the final order (formerly Decree Absolute) is granted.
What Does a No Fault Divorce Change?
The new legislation will:
- Replace the current 5 fact model with a requirement to instead provide a statement of “irretrievable breakdown” from either one or both spouses
- Remove the ability for the other spouse to contest the divorce
- Introduce a joint application option
- Reform the language used in a divorce, now using only plain English. A ‘decree nisi’ will now be called a ‘conditional order’, a ‘decree absolute’ a ‘final order’ and ‘petitioner’ will become ‘applicant’.
The 5 Fact Model
Previously, couples have had to choose from one of five options as grounds for divorce:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 Year’s Separation
- 5 Year’s Separation
The reform is especially poignant for couples in a Civil Partnership as “Adultery” does not apply as an option for couples in a Civil Partnership.
The traditional five facts have been criticised as being restrictive and can often damage a relationship further by requiring one spouse to place blame on the other, or to write down the downfalls or wrongdoings of their spouse in great detail. In the cases where a couple have simply fallen out of love or grown apart, placing needless blame on a spouse or co-parent can inflict irreparable damage and make moving forward with financial or family relationships further strained.
Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown
Under the new legislation, couples will instead need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. This statement replaces the need for ‘consent’ to the divorce, or for either spouse to place blame on the other. The court will be satisfied by the statement and will serve as conclusive evidence that the marriage is over. This statement can be provided jointly or solely. Neither spouse will be able to contest or appeal against the divorce.
A joint application for a no fault divorce allows both spouses to apply for the divorce and helps to facilitate a completely amicable separation. In a joint application, both parties will be known as either ‘Applicant 1’ or ‘Applicant 2’.
In a sole application, the person applying for the divorce will be known as the ‘applicant’ and their spouse/civil partner will be referred to as the ‘respondent’. Sole applications cannot be converted to a joint application.
Sole applications can be made via self-representation or with the help of a Lyons Bowe solicitor.
No Fault Divorce FAQs
Does a No Fault Divorce also apply to civil partnerships?
Yes, all civil partnerships will also have access to a No Fault Divorce from 6 April 2022.
When does the No Fault Divorce come in?
6 April 2022.
Can a no fault divorce be contested?
Only in very strict circumstances:
- To dispute the jurisdiction of the court in England or Wales. For example, where neither party lives in or has any connection with England or Wales.
- Neither party has entered into a legally valid marriage.
- The marriage or civil partnership has already been legally ended.
Do both parties have to agree to a no fault divorce?
No. Under new legislation, only one party needs to submit an application for a no fault divorce and their spouse cannot contest the divorce.
What if I begin divorce proceedings before the No Fault Divorce is introduced?
Divorce proceedings issued by the court before 5 April 2022 will be progressed under the existing law, whether they have been submitted digitally or via paper forms. These divorces will not be impacted by the new legislation.
Proceedings that are not issued by the court before 6 April 2022 will be returned to the applicant and will need to be re-submitted under the new law.
To proceed a divorce under the current laws, applications must be submitted to the court by 4pm on 31 March 2022.
Urgent applications that need to be considered after the deadlines set out will still be considered and issued where possible.
What are the No Fault Divorce Deadlines?
4pm on 31 March 2022 – Final deadline for digital submission of digital applications. Final Deadline for receipt of paper applications.
4pm on 5 April 2022 – Final deadline for urgent applications. These must be conducted by paper and handed to the court.
10am 6 April 2022 – Applications are accepted under new legislation
Can I convert a Sole Application to a Joint Application?
No, once a sole application has been submitted, the application type cannot be changed. If you have submitted a joint application, this can be converted to a sole application in certain circumstances. You will need to discuss these with your solicitor.
Does No Fault Divorce replace existing divorce laws?
Yes. From 6 April 2022, the No Fault Divorce will replace the existing divorce laws.
How much does a no fault divorce cost?
Lyons Bowe offer a flexible fee structure. You can get in touch with a Family Law solicitor on 01749 345756 or email@example.com for a free 30 minute consultation.