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The New No Fault Divorce Law - What Does It Mean For Divorcing Couples

The New No Fault Divorce Law - What Does It Mean For Divorcing Couples

On 6th April 2022 the new no fault divorce law (Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020), came into effect.

Before this time (under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973), couples could only divorce if one party applied for a divorce giving one of the following reasons:

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • desertion
  • two-years separation with consent
  • five-years separation

This was the case even if the couple had mutually decided to end their marriage.

These 5 grounds for divorce will no longer be used and divorcing couples will also now have the option of issuing a joint application for divorce. If an individual makes an application for divorce it can no longer be contested, protecting people from being trapped in potentially abusive marriages against their wishes.

The terminology used in divorce has also been updated to use plain English. The terms ‘decree nisi’, ‘decree absolute’ and ‘petitioner’, have been replaced with ‘conditional order’, ‘final order’ and ‘applicant’.

How long does a no fault divorce take?

There has to be a minimum of 20 weeks between the application for divorce being issued and the conditional order being granted, followed by a further 6 weeks and a day before the application for the final order can be made. This ‘period of reflection’ will allow divorcing couples to reconsider the divorce or give them time to come to financial arrangements, or childcare arrangements where applicable.

What does the no fault divorce law mean for divorcing couples?

It is hoped that by removing the issue of blame from the divorce process, as well as the ability to contest, it will lessen the upset and legal costs for divorcing couples. The focus of their attention can be placed on reconciliation, financial settlement or the care of any children that the couple may have.

Divorcing couples who have simply grown apart in their marriage are now able to divorce within a much shorter time frame, rather than possibly waiting 2 years. In the case of a contested divorce this potentially could have been 5 years.

Things to consider

Initially there may be pent up demand for the no fault divorce, where couples have waited for this Act to be passed before applying for it, and there may also be delays arising from an already stretched legal system due to the pandemic.

If a divorcing couple apply for the divorce together but subsequently have a disagreement and one party pulls out, the process will need to be started again from the beginning.

The new law does not change the fact that a solicitor can only act for one party in any child or financial arrangements. So, a divorcing couple will need to use family mediation or each party instruct separate solicitors for this part of the divorce process.

How to apply for a no fault divorce

You can file for a divorce yourself using the government portal, or use a solicitor to file the paperwork for you.

Remember that the application is just the start of the divorce process. The parenting and financial arrangements will need to be agreed separately. We recommend that if you are considering getting divorced that you take advantage of our FREE initial consultation to help determine the best way to proceed. Call us today on Bingley 01274 723858,  Ilkley 01943 601173 or Bradford 01274 735511 to book yours.

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