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What is No Fault Divorce?: Changes to the Divorce and Dissolution process

April 12, 2022

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has reformed the divorce and dissolution process in England and Wales; one of the key changes has been to remove the concept of fault. 

This means that separating couples will be able to get a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or legal separation without having to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. 

You can contact our Family Law Solicitors for Divorce Support if you feel you want to proceed with the divorce process, or find out more information about how the changes to the divorce and dissolution process might affect you.

What is ‘no fault’ divorce?

There is only one ground for divorce; this is that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. Under the new system you simply have to make a statement that this is the case; there is no longer a need to rely on a ‘fact’ to prove the marriage or dissolution has irretrievably broken down. 

This has removed the need to wait for two years with consent, or five years if your spouse did not consent) or to rely on unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion. The changes mean that you can divorce or dissolve the civil partnership without having to blame the other person.

At AFG Law, we can offer a vast amount of help from specialist Divorce Solicitors and Separation Lawyers, to Family Law Solicitors who can help you with your specific marital or family issues. 

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

As of 6th April 2022, you have been able to apply for a no-fault divorce in England and Wales. This application can be made by one spouse or civil partner or the application can be made jointly.

How to get a ‘no fault’ divorce

If you want to bring your marriage or civil partnership to an end our divorce solicitors can support you through the process. You can make an application for divorce by yourself or jointly with your spouse or civil partner. 

You must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least a year and one of you must have been resident in England and Wales for the year before the application for divorce is made. The original marriage certificate, or a certified copy, will need to be sent to the court along with the application for divorce or dissolution. 

The person who starts the divorce or dissolution, if it is a sole application, will be known as the Applicant during the divorce process. The changes brought in by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 on 6th April 2022 mean you now only need to confirm the marriage has irretrievably broken down and it is not necessary to assign fault to the other person. This is designed to reduce conflict and allow the divorcing couple to focus on resolving arrangements for their children and achieving a financial settlement. 

The other person, known during the proceedings as the Respondent, will be sent the divorce application by the court. Once a divorce application has been issued there is a ‘period of reflection’ that has been built into the new divorce system by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. 

What is the period of reflection and how long is it?

The idea of the period of reflection is to allow divorcing couples to consider their decision to divorce and to see if they can work through their differences and see if they can reconcile. If the parties are firm on their wish to divorce or dissolve the civil partnership then this period of time can be used to reach a financial settlement or resolve the arrangements for any children. 

The period of reflection means that there is a minimum of 20 weeks from the issuing of a divorce application and the court being able to grant a Conditional Order (formerly known as a decree nisi).

The last stage of the divorce process is when the Applicant applies for a Final Order (previously known as a decree absolute). This application is usually delayed whilst the financial arrangements are agreed or any court application for a financial order is finalised and approved by the Family Court.  

The Applicant has to wait a minimum of 6 weeks between the Conditional Order and the Final Order. The Final Order brings the marriage to an end and has important consequences, including financial and in respect of wills. You also need to be aware of the ‘remarriage trap’.   

How long does a no-fault divorce take?

A divorce under the new ‘no fault’ system will take a minimum of 6 months but is likely to take longer if there are delays, a need to resolve financial arrangements or the court is experiencing high demand.  

Once the single or joint application for a divorce order has been made, there must be a 20 week ‘period of reflection’ by law before a court can make a Conditional Order. 

If it is agreed that the divorce should continue the court must wait 6 weeks from the date of the Conditional Order before it can make a Final Order although in reality this is often longer if there are outstanding financial issues to be resolved.

How much will a no-fault divorce cost in the UK?

If your separation is less contentious, then the legal costs should be lower. With a no-fault culture in place, it will encourage more constructive discussions and therefore potentially lead to less expensive outcomes. 

However there is no guarantee that this will be the case in your divorce. The financial settlement will be the same as any other settlement, including maintenance and the division of assets. 

We offer competitive fixed fees for dealing with your divorce, speak to one of our friendly experts today.

How do I deal with the finances in a no-fault divorce?

The no fault divorce process only brings the marriage to an end; it does not end your financial ties to each other. It’s really important that you deal with finances at the same time as the divorce. If you do not do this you could risk losing out, such as in relation to pensions, or you could risk the other person making a claim years after the divorce has been made final. 

There are different ways of resolving the financial matters and no matter which route, mediation, negotiation or court proceedings, any financial settlement agreement reached should always be turned into a court order to ensure it is enforceable. 

Our solicitors can help when marriages break down and can guide you through the process to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome. Speak to one of our qualified solicitors today on 01204 377600.

Can we apply jointly for a divorce?

Under the old rules only one person out of the couple could apply for divorce, they would then be known as the Applicant and the other person would be known as the Respondent, but this has all changed.

From 6th April 2022 a divorcing couple can apply for a no-fault divorce together; if a couple decides to do this it will be known as a joint divorce application. It is not just the initial application that can be made together, one or both of the parties can apply for the next stages, the conditional order (currently called the decree nisi) and the final order (currently called the decree absolute), and this can be done whether or not the original application was made by one of the parties or made jointly. This is the first time in family law history that a solicitor can be asked to lodge a divorce application for both parties.

If you feel that applying together for a divorce best suits your circumstances give our specialist divorce solicitors a call.

Get a No Fault Divorce with AFG Law

The divorce process can be extremely stressful and emotional for all parties involved. Our expert team of divorce and separation solicitors can take some of the stress off your hands and put your mind at ease.

If you’re thinking about getting divorced or if your proceedings have already started, contact AFG Law today to find out how we can help you. 

What if I have already started going through a divorce?

Don’t worry! If you have already issued a divorce petition there should be nothing in the changes that stops it from continuing. If you are worried speak to one of our family solicitors today.