Your Guide to the New ‘No Fault’ Divorce

As of 6th April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has come into effect to reform the divorce procedure in England and Wales and replace the existing divorce laws. Here, we explore the new concept of the ‘no fault’ divorce which has been years in the making, and what it could mean for you.

Why has it been introduced?

Up until now, in order to petition for divorce in England and Wales a marriage must have broken down irretrievably. In order to prove that you had to rely upon one of five facts: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, two years’ separation with consent and five years’ separation without consent. It has long been argued that the reliance on these facts for divorce encourages parties to blame one another for the breakdown of marriage, increasing hostility and animosity between divorcing couples.

Clearly, the law should aim to reduce conflict between parties, particularly where children are involved. It is hoped that the no fault divorce will enable couples to focus on more important issues than finger-pointing, such as their property, finances, and future living arrangements.

What is a “no fault” divorce?

The new divorce law reform will mean that one or both parties to a marriage or civil partnership can apply for a divorce simply by stating that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, without the need to establish who is at ‘fault’ for the breakdown of marriage. The removal of the requirement to rely upon a particular fact for divorce means one party can no longer prevent a divorce by contesting the fact relied upon. Couples will also be able to make a joint application for divorce, encouraging amicable splits.

To avoid accusations of making divorce ‘too easy’, the new law also introduces a minimum of 20 weeks ‘cooling off’ period, giving parties the chance to reflect and reach arrangements necessary to ensure a smooth transition post-divorce.

What do we think?

Our Family and Contested Probate Solicitor, Emerald Priscott, offers an insight into the potential of the new reforms:

“Today is the day that no-fault divorce comes into effect. This is arguably the biggest change to divorce law in the last 50 years with the new law seeking to end the “blame game”. It is hoped that by removing the need to blame the other party, it will reduce the animosity and acrimony in already difficult circumstances between the parties and pave the way for more collaborative separations.

There has certainly been a shift in the last few months with more and more clients asking about the changes to the law and often saying they want to wait to commence divorce proceedings until the new law takes effect. It seems that the reform has been long overdue for many couples.”

We are proud to offer an initial consultation with a solicitor at a reduced rate, providing financial clarity throughout what can be a difficult time. This enables clients to discuss their options and come up with a plan moving forward. For more information about divorce and other Family Law related enquiries, please contact Lianne Smith on 01842 757439 or by email at lianne.smith@rudlingsllp.co.uk in the first instance.

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