What is a no-fault divorce?

What is a no-fault divorce?

Divorce can be a stressful, expensive and time-consuming process, regardless of your reasons for separating.

For decades, separating couples have had to deal with a court process that usually demanded that one party took the blame for the breakdown of the marriage.

However, a new law has now been passed which seeks to solve some of the issues in the current divorce process – it’s known as no-fault divorce.

To learn more about no-fault divorces, keep on reading.

What is a no-fault divorce?

A no-fault divorce is the new type of divorce proceedings that were set out in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. It’s the first change in divorce law for 50 years, so many of the updates were made to bring the law up to the modern-day.

Under this new legislation, the ‘five grounds’ of divorce have been replaced which means that couples can now complete divorce proceedings without having to assign fault to one of the parties.

The new legislation also removes the possibility of contesting the divorce and will allow couples to make a joint application.

Other measures that have come into place alongside the no-fault divorce system include:

● A new minimum period of 20 weeks must be given after a couple applies for a divorce before a conditional order is granted. This extension will allow couples time to make practical arrangements before separating.
● The language used around divorce will be made simpler and easier to understand.
● A new online system for divorce will be introduced to make proceedings quicker and more efficient.

What was the previous divorce system?

Under the previous system, the separating couple had to prove that one of the five grounds of divorce had occurred in the relationship.

Those grounds were:
● Adultery
● Unreasonable behaviour
● Desertion
● Two years separation with consent
● Five years separation without consent

When going through the divorce proceedings, one spouse was usually forced to make accusations about the other to prove that one of the five grounds had been met – this would still have to happen even if it was a mutual decision to separate and the parties had been separated for less than two years.

This process led to unnecessary stress and delayed proceedings. However, with the new changes, couples will now be able to focus more on the practical decisions regarding their separation – things like childcare, finances etc.

When did the no-fault divorce system start?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which outlines no-fault divorce, was first passed in June 2020.

It has been in force since 6 April 2022.

What does no-fault divorce mean?

A no-fault divorce means that when a couple decides to separate, the blame doesn’t have to be placed on just one of the parties.

Instead, during proceedings, the couple can decide that no one was at fault in the relationship and that it was a mutual decision to separate.

This spares feelings at an emotional time and also prevents friends, family and children from having to witness arguments, disagreements, and unnecessary finger-pointing.

How does no-fault divorce work?

The process of obtaining a divorce when you and your partner separate is now much easier.

The new process consists of:

1. One party, or both, will complete an online application form that says their marriage has irretrievably broken down
2. After 20 weeks, the couple must confirm that they still want to go ahead with the divorce by applying for a Conditional Order
3. The court will make a Conditional Order
4. 6 weeks after the Conditional Order has been issued, the court can make a Final Order. This Final Order is what will finally bring the marriage to an end.

The whole process will take a minimum of 26 weeks, to encourage reflection and an opportunity to reconsider. However, due to processing times and other delays, some divorces can take much longer to complete.

How will my finances be affected by a no-fault divorce?

Finances and assets are not affected if you choose to go through with a no-fault divorce as the courts won’t view your situation any differently.

In fact, it’s normally easier to come to a decision about how to divide everything up between you and your spouse when it’s not in a confrontational environment where one person has to accept blame.

Expert advice from divorce lawyers

If you’d like to learn more about no-fault divorces, or would just like some advice on how the process could work for you, get in touch with our team of experienced family solicitors.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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