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No fault divorce update

No fault divorce is expected to come into effect in England and Wales on 6 April 2022 and from this date a couple will be able to get divorced without having to blame each other or wait for five years.

This change to the law has been long-awaited. The Government announced no-fault divorces were to become law in the UK following a widespread consultation which took place back in 2018 on reforming the law. There is considerable support for changes to be made, to help make divorce less confrontational and acrimonious.

Couples will now be able to focus on reaching mutual decisions for the benefit of themselves and any children they have, without needing to worry about who is to blame.

A new minimum time period of 20 weeks will be introduced between when the divorce application is filed with the court and before the parties can apply for a Conditional Order. If they still wish to divorce after this 20-week period, they must confirm this with the court when they apply for the Conditional Order. This Conditional Order will not be made a Final Order until at least six weeks have passed, so the process could be speeded up to take 26 weeks.

Currently under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England & Wales, anyone seeking a divorce must be able to prove that their partner is at fault for the end of the marriage through either adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour or if both parties agree after two years of separation. Otherwise they have to wait until they have been living apart for five years.

The Government also plans to:

  • Allow couples to give notice jointly.
  • Allow joint applications to become sole applications and vice versa.
  • Remove the ability for one person to contest a divorce.
  • Modernise the language used in the divorce process.

These changes along with the two-step process and 26-week time frame would also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Julie Hobson, Partner at Gullands Solicitors comments: “For a long time there have been calls to change the divorce laws here in the UK for the wider benefit of the family, as if divorce is made a less acrimonious process, former spouses could be encouraged to make more rational and reasonable decisions regarding the day to day care of any children of the marriage and the division of finances. It is hoped the introduction of no-fault divorce means couples are less likely to become enemies.”

Julie Hobson concludes: “Anything which helps remove the anger, frustration and tension for divorcing couples can only be a good thing, allowing family solicitors to mediate and help an agreement to be reached. Rather than fighting over every point, efforts can be focused in the future on reaching a beneficial solution for all. This will help to enable everyone to move on with their lives and for a family with children to still function in the future without a process that currently encourages hostility.”

Couples don’t have to wait until April 2022 to prepare for a divorce, you can talk to us now.


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