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No-fault divorce law – The key changes

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On April 6, 2022, the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 commenced introducing the new no-fault divorce law. Jenna Atkinson and Hannah Pike from Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team look at the key changes which take effect from this date.

Previously, when applying for a divorce, there was a requirement to establish one of five facts to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down (for example, due to the other party’s adultery or behaviour, or based on the fact that the parties have lived separately for at least two years).

The no-fault divorce process removes the requirement to establish one of these facts, which essentially removes the blame element from a divorce application. Instead, only a statement of irretrievable breakdown is required. In addition, it will be possible for the couple to file jointly for divorce if they choose to do so, rather than it being one person bringing the case.

One spouse may submit a sole application which needs include a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’. One party is therefore able to issue a no-fault divorce petition, if they feel that the relationship has come to an end – but they do not want to cite the fault of the other party as the reason for the relationship ending.

A couple may submit a joint application for a divorce relying on the sole ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. When submitting the application, each party needs to provide confirmation that their marriage has broken down irretrievably.

The no-fault divorce application cannot be contested, even if the application has been made by a sole applicant. The court must make a divorce order provided that a proper application has been issued.

The Act also introduces a ‘cooling-off’ period of a minimum of twenty weeks from the start of divorce proceedings, to provide the applicant(s) time to reflect on their decision to apply for a divorce. The date begins from the date you issue the divorce petition.

When the twenty-week period has elapsed, either party can apply for a conditional order (this was previously known as the Decree Nisi Date, confirming that you are entitled to a divorce). From the date of the conditional order, there is then a six-week period before the conditional order can be made final (this was previously known as Decree Absolute). The final order is required to legally end the marriage. Therefore, it will take at least six months to complete the no-fault divorce process.

Despite the welcome changes to divorce law, all the associated challenges with the matrimonial finances and arrangements for the children of course still need to be dealt with alongside the divorce.

As members of Resolution, Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team is committed to resolving disputes in a constructive way, by supporting and encouraging families, with client care at the heart of our all our legal services.

If you wish to discuss your divorce or separation or any other family matter, please contact Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team on 01772 258321. The team offers a free initial consultation with one of the divorce and family law solicitors to provide you with helpful guidance.


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