No Fault Divorce: The End of the Blame Game

Posted on: September 30th, 2021

Under the current divorce regime, the majority of people divorcing have to proceed on a ‘blame’ basis, meaning one party has to rely on their partners adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

In the biggest revamp of divorce legislation in over 50 years, the ‘blame’ divorce basis will change.  The landmark Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, passed by Parliament in 2020, is scheduled to come into force on 6 April 2022.

What is the current position?

The current regime requires one spouse to start the divorce based on the others adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. If one of these three reasons cannot be relied on the couple must separate for at least two years if they can agree, or five years of living apart if they do not, before the marriage can be legally dissolved.

What is changing?

Under the new rules, either one or both spouses make a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The statement is conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down and the court can make a Divorce Order.  Parties will be obliged to have a 26-week period of reflection from the start of the process before the divorce can be finalised.

The Government’s key policy behind the new arrangements is to reduce conflict within the process of divorce, dissolution and separation.

The new rules are much more straight forward and will release the tension that has enveloped divorce for far too long.  Whilst the changes will not facilitate quicker divorces than the current regime, the benefits will be commendable and without question, will see a reduction in hostility and acrimony.

Fortunately, the new Act abandons the terms ‘decree nisi’ and ‘decree absolute’ in exchange for ‘conditional divorce order’ and ‘final divorce order’. The new definitions of each stage immediately makes the process much more understandable and the terms accessible to everyone, not just lawyers.

Final thoughts

We often find that a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour creates unnecessary hostility where resentment between the spouses is amplified by the fact that personal imperfections are laid out in official court papers.

The ‘no fault’ divorce is a major development that we fully embrace.  The removal of blame should hopefully limit the damage to ready fragile relationship and many families will benefit from this.

If you have any further questions about no-fault divorce or the content of this article, the Family Team at Coffin Mew would be happy to help so please do get in touch.