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A Complete Guide to No-fault Divorce

What is a no-fault divorce?

The traditional process for divorce entailed one party providing a specific reason for ending the marriage. This often involved alleging wrongdoing (including unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or desertion) by the other party.

No-fault divorces seek to remove this element of blame and instead allows one or both parties to file for divorce because they believe the marriage is beyond repair and broken down irretrievably.

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

The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Bill came into force in the UK on 6 April 2022 bringing about the introduction of no-fault divorce in the UK.

It is no longer necessary for either spouse to apportion blame for the failure of the marriage,

Instead, one or both spouses can make a “statement of irretrievable breakdown”.

Why would couples choose a no-fault divorce?

Legal experts on both sides of the argument have put forward the pros and cons of no-fault divorce in the UK.

Advantages of no-fault divorce

  • No-fault divorces are generally cheaper than under the previous system, usually as a result of there being less litigation
  • It is no longer necessary for either party to appoint blame on the other party, for example, unreasonable behaviour or adultery. The need under the previous system to establish blame sometimes caused the relationship between the two parties to deteriorate further as accusations and counter-accusations were made. This could have adverse consequences if the couple needed to work together constructively in the future – for example, over childcare issues or financial matters.
  • It is now much harder to contest a divorce, reducing the risk of lengthy delays.
  • By reducing the need to establish fault, both spouses can focus on the terms of the divorce.
  • The new legislation is simpler to understand, with much of the previous archaic language removed. For example, the preliminary stage in the divorce process, previously referred to as ‘Decree Nisi’, has been replaced by the ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ has been replaced by ‘Final Order’
  • The whole atmosphere of the divorce process has now changed, with both parties able to focus on reaching an agreement and on their future lives.

Disadvantages of no-fault divorce

  • Some people have argued that no-fault divorces will weaken the institution of marriage. They fear that couples will put less thought into whether marriage is right for them if they know it will be simpler to get a divorce in the future.
  • It has also been suggested that couples whose marriage is going through difficulties will be less likely to persevere and work things out if divorce looks like an easy option.
  • There have been fears expressed that people who have behaved badly while married will now be able to divorce without being held to account for their actions (although either spouse will still have the right to seek a divorce based on the unreasonable behaviour or adultery of the other).
  • The process can be longer than under the previous legislation. A compulsory 20 week ‘reflection period’ before applying for the Final Order is now required. The divorce process can therefore take circa six months.

 How a no-fault divorce works

Apply for a divorce

The process is primarily an administrative one, taking place largely on the online Court portal.

The application can be made by just one spouse or jointly. There is a court fee of £593.

You will receive confirmation from the court as to whether the application has been accepted.

Conditional Order (previously known as Decree Nisi)

The conditional order can be applied for after a minimum of 20 weeks from when the divorce application was accepted. It confirms that you are entitled to a divorce but at this stage you and your spouse remain legally married.

Final Order (previously known as Decree Absolute)

The final order can be applied for after a minimum period of six weeks and a day from when the conditional order came into effect.

Once the Final Order is granted by the court you and your spouse are officially divorced.

The Final Order will replace your marriage certificate.

Do both parties have to agree to a no-fault divorce?

A key part of the new system is that it is far harder for someone to contest a divorce. They can now only do so on very specific legal grounds, for example, if they live outside of the UK.

Can you do a no-fault divorce yourself?

While it is possible for you and your spouse to handle your own divorce, many couples prefer the peace of mind that comes from using family law experts such as Wilson Browne.

How our solicitors can help you with a no-fault divorce

While the new system aims to make the process simpler and more cost effective, getting divorced is likely to remain a difficult experience for most people. Wilson Browne can help ease the strain by helping you and your partner reach an agreement on child-arrangements and financial issues and ensuring that all your applications are made in a timely and correct manner.

Our family law team is recognised by the Legal 500, a ‘who’s who’ of the legal profession, to provide you with the reassurance that you are in safe hands.

With offices in Corby, Higham Ferrers & Rushden, Kettering, Leicester, Northampton and Wellingborough we can offer a face-to-face meeting at a convenient location.

Please get in touch by calling 0800 088 6004 or completing our online contact form.