From 6 April 2022, no fault divorce will be introduced in England and Wales.
This will allow couples to end their marriage or civil partnership without having to blame each other for the breakdown of their relationship. No fault divorce also removes the possibility of one spouse contesting the divorce, which can potentially leave the other partner waiting a long time to be able to finalise the split.
The changes to UK divorce law on 6th April will change and simplify the process of getting divorced in England and Wales.
The new law will be implemented on 6th April. From then on, couples will no longer need to use one of the five facts for divorce (desertion, adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent or 5 years separation without consent). Instead, they will only have to make a declaration that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
What are the changes and what do they mean for me?
The new divorce law changes will simplify the process of divorce and remove the option to contest the divorce. The main changes are detailed below:
- The parties will only need to produce a statement of irretrievable breakdown – no blame will be apportioned to either party.
- The application for divorce can be made either jointly or by a sole applicant.
- The option of contesting the divorce will be removed.
- Terminology will change: Decree Nisi becomes a Conditional Order and Decree Absolute a Final Order.
- There will be a period of reflection – a minimum of 20 weeks – from when the application for divorce is made to when a Conditional Order can be made. This provides a period of time for the couple to consider their decision.
Considering around 280,000 children in the UK see their parents split every year, a good number of them will benefit from their parents experiencing an easier divorce with no blame involved.
What was the law before?
Prior to 6 April 2022, divorce laws in England and Wales meant a couple could only get a no fault divorce in the UK after a period of separation. One party can apply if they both agree and have been separated for two years. If they have been separated for 5 years, there is no need to obtain the agreement of the other party.
If you are planning to divorce after 6 April 2022, then you can get a no fault divorce.
Why do we need no fault divorce?
The old process of divorce requires one party to divorce the other and provide reasons for their desire to divorce. Therefore, it can be difficult to focus on moving forward without conflict.
Current divorce law (prior to 6 April) originates from the 1970s and causes an unnecessary amount of delay or conflict in the divorce process. For example, if you wish to divorce because of unreasonable behaviour, you must produce a statement of reasons that you no longer wish to be married. This potentially causes a great deal of anger between the divorcing parties, and the reasons stated may be disputed. In the worst case scenario, this can cause the divorce to not proceed at all.
For parents getting divorced, the outgoing system requires people to focus on the negatives regarding their ex. This can breed further resentment and a breakdown in civility for co-parenting going forward.
Without the need for blame between the divorcing couple, it is likely that the process will be less upsetting for many, and help families (particularly children) find the process smoother.
Will I still need a lawyer?
Lawyers will still help negotiate and prepare documents, organise finances and attend court appearances.
How long does it take for no fault divorce?
No-one can apply for a no fault divorce until the law changes, on 6th April. The process will then be as follows:
- A single or joint application for a divorce order made
- 20 weeks later, and having confirmed that the applicant or applicants still wish to go ahead, the Conditional Order will be made by the court
- 6 weeks later, the Final Order will be made.
In total, therefore, a no fault divorce will take around 6 months.