“No fault” divorce – what are the key changes coming in from April?

Posted on: March 15th, 2022

From 6th April, divorce law is changing and for the first time, spouses can now divorce without having to blame each other making this the biggest revamp in divorce legislation in over 50 years.

What is changing?

Under the new rules, either one or both spouses  can ask the court to make a divorce order once they confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is an obligatory 26-week period of reflection from the start of the process before the divorce can be finalised.

The full changes include:

  1. Removing the requirement to provide evidence of bad behaviour or separation and replacing it simply with confirmation that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  2. Removing the ability to defend the decision to divorce. An application can be disputed, but on very limited grounds such as jurisdiction, validity, fraud or procedural non-compliance.
  3. Allowing joint applications, meaning couples can now apply together for a divorce.
  4. Updating the legal language to make it simpler and more accessible. The first stage of the divorce will be known as a conditional order and the second stage as a final order.
  5. Introducing a new minimum timeframe of six months. This is made up of a period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and when an application is made for a conditional order, and a further 6 weeks until the order can be made final. This provides a period of reflection and allows time to agree the practical and financial arrangements for the future.

Under the new law, anyone applying for divorce will be able to either apply jointly or apply individually. Sole applications will continue to be made online through the digital service or on paper using an updated application form.

For the first time, the new law introduces joint applications and both parties will be equally responsible for the application, they will be known as known as applicant 1 and applicant 2 (rather than as applicant or respondent under a sole application).

The Government’s key policy behind the new arrangements is to reduce family conflict. 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 long-awaited reform will undoubtedly be welcomed by separating couples and their legal teams who hope the new law will remove hostility and the unnecessary stress of going through a divorce. In turn, this should allow more focus on the practicalities of separation including family finances and/or arrangements for any children.

If you would like further information about divorce or the new process, please contact us as we would be happy to help.