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No fault divorce coming April 2022

Our People - Loretta Orsi-Barzanti
24 November, 2021

Update: The long-awaited enactments that will pave the way for “no fault” divorces were passed in June 2020 and “no fault” divorces, have now become law in April 2022.

This article provides an overview of the current divorce laws, the incoming changes, and their predicted implications.

What is the current law?

To commence divorce proceedings in England and Wales, the “petitioner”, this being the spouse submitting the application for the divorce, must demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is done by the petitioner proving one of the five permissible grounds for divorce: –   

  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion
  3. Unreasonable behaviour
  4. Two years separation where both spouses agree to the divorce; and
  5. Five years separation where one spouse does not consent to ending the marriage

How will the divorce process change?

Under the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, which is due to become law on 6th April 2022, there will only be one ground for divorce – this being the irrevocable breakdown of marriage. There will no longer be a need to allocate blame or wrongdoing to begin the divorce. This means that you cannot contest a divorce unless you are contesting on the grounds of validity of the marriage.

So, unlike now, where only one spouse can apply for a divorce, the new system will allow parties to apply on a joint basis.

The new divorce process will still include the two stage approach of there first being Decree Nisi, marking the halfway point in the divorce, and then secondly the Decree Absolute, the certificate that the court sends to confirm that the divorce is finalised. The terminology used to refer to these two points in the divorce process will change however – with the Decree Nisi becoming the ‘Conditional Order of Divorce’ and Decree Absolute the ‘Final Order of Divorce’.

The new rules will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.  

What are the safeguards?

The new laws will introduce a 20-week “period of reflection” before the divorce becomes final. This acts as a safeguard and aims to provide the spouses with a final period of contemplation, encouraging the couple to work through their difficulties before concluding the divorce process. 

What are the benefits of the new changes?

The removal of the requirement to allocate blame intends to enable the process to become more amicable and efficient. By submitting the fact that the marriage has simply failed, instead of seeking to hold someone accountable and supply evidence in support of a spouse’s wrongdoing, the changes are likely to alleviate stress and prevent further deterioration in the parties’ relationship. This is particularly important in cases where the spouses have children and will have to co-parent following the conclusion of the proceedings.

If you would like to receive assistance in relation to your divorce proceedings then please contact a member of our Family department on 020 8492 2290.

Head of Family (Private Law)
Loretta Orsi-Barzanti is an associate solicitor and head of our Private Family Team. She advises on all aspects of Public and Private Law.

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