No Fault Divorce

Last year, the rules around divorce changed with the introduction of “no fault divorce”. The new rules mean that an individual seeking a divorce no longer has to demonstrate that their spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, or chose from a limited range of reasons for the divorce.

What is no fault divorce?

Previously, most divorces required one spouse to claim that the other was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, by alleging either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. The alternative was to live apart for a minimum of two or five years before the divorce process could be started, preventing separated couples from getting on with their lives.

Following the passing of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, the Applicant(s) only need to state that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, without assigning any blame.

Why did the rules change?

Although no fault divorce has existed in parts of America since the late 1960s and in Australia since the mid 1970s, and despite campaigning from organisations such as Resolution and others the reforms were finally prompted in large part due to a case that hit the headlines after the Supreme Court refused to grant a woman’s appeal for divorce which was defended by her husband.

Under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act of 2020, divorce is still based on the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, however it is no longer necessary to cite any of the previous five reasons for the breakdown.

What else has changed?

As well as no fault divorce, the 2020 Act introduced other changes to the process.

The terminology of divorce has been simplified; we now have the Applicant and Respondent, the Conditional Order, and the Final Order. The petition is now known as the application for a Divorce Order.

A more radical change was the fact that both parties can now apply for the divorce together. One or both parties must make the application for a divorce and provide a statement to show that they believe the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If only one party makes the application, the other party (the Respondent) will be required to provide an acknowledgement of service.

The court is now required to take the statement from the Applicant(s) to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is no longer any provision for anyone to defend a divorce unless there is a jurisdiction issue, if the marriage is not valid or is voidable, in cases of fraud and procedural non compliance.

How long will a no fault divorce take?

Under the new rules there is a “cooling off period” of 20 weeks between the application for the divorce and acknowledgment by the respondent and being able to make the application for the Conditional Order. There is still a 6 week period between the Conditional Order and being able to make the application for the Final Order to actually end the marriage which means that overall the process will take more than 6 months to complete.

As with all divorces, if there are issues over arrangements for children or the matrimonial finances it is better to try and deal with these as soon as possible – there is no need to wait for the pronouncement of the Final Order. In relation to financial orders in most cases you are likely to be advised not to make the application for the Final Order until Financial Orders are in place especially where pensions are involved.

How much will it cost?

In 2023 the divorce petition fee is £593. This fee is set by the government and is subject to change. You may be eligible for help with the cost if you are on a low income.

How can we help?

At Cartridges Law we provide legal services for anyone navigating the end of a relationship. Contact us for an initial free conversation with a member of our divorce team.