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No-Fault Divorce- What does it mean?

View profile for Caitriona Rafferty
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As of 6th April 2022, the new law on "no fault" divorce will be introduced in England and Wales, eliminating the requirement to attribute blame to one spouse.

What Does the Current Divorce Law State? 

The current divorce law in England and Wales requires one spouse to file for divorce. The spouse filing for the divorce must be able to demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down on the basis of the other spouse's conduct. This conduct can fall under three categories: unreasonable behavior, adultery, or desertion. 

The respondent spouse has a right to defend the grounds of the divorce, often making the divorce a difficult and drawn out process.

Currently, only if a couple have been separated for 2 years or more, can they file for a divorce without allocating blame. This is so long as both parties consent to the divorce.

If both parties do not consent, then the couple must go through a separation period of up to 5 years before the marriage can be legally dissolved without the other spouse's consent.  

What is “No Fault” Divorce? 

The new "no fault" divorce law eliminates the requirement to attribute blame to one spouse. When filing for divorce, instead of choosing one of the above three reasons to explain why a divorce is necessary, couples will be able to simply provide “a statement of irretrievable breakdown” instead. 

This statement can be completed either individually by one spouse or jointly and will detail the irretrievable breakdown, with no further evidence to be required. This will be the only ground for wanting to obtain a divorce.  

On this basis, a spouse will no longer be able defend a divorce, preventing a historical delay in the process.

Why Has This Change Been Made? 

The necessity of placing the blame on one spouse is out of date in today’s society. It is apparent that the current divorce laws can often create hostility, increase animosity and make the difficulty of a divorce even more stressful. 

The bitterness created by having to blame one party for the breakdown of the marriage is particularly damaging when there are children in the marriage. We often see that children become stuck in the middle of their parent's divorce and this often results in matters relating to child arrangements being taken to court.  Often this results in long term impacts on the mental health of both spouses and any children. Ultimately, the overarching view in today's society is that it is unreasonable for a couple to be forced to stay together, especially when they have already tried to make it work. 

The “no fault” divorce places the focus on reaching a resolution as quickly and stress-free as possible. It sets a positive tone for future discussions between parties regarding financial issues and child arrangements. It also reduces the impact that allegations can have on both the couple and any children involved.  

How does no fault divorce work?

  • Under the new law you, or you and your spouse, can make an application for divorce on the grounds that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • After a minimum of 20 weeks, the applicant(s) can confirm that they wish to proceed with the divorce.
  • The court can then make a Conditional Order (previously called a Decree Nisi).
  • After a minimum of 6 weeks, the court can make the Final Order (previously called a Decree Absolute).

Should you require legal advice as to how to proceed with a divorce or a dissolution, Gepp Solicitors will endeavour to deal with matters sensitively and swiftly. 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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