No-fault divorce: ending the blame-game
(The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020)

Dubbed “no-fault divorce”, the new legislation came into efffect on 6 April 2022. It allows spouses to formalise the end of their relationship in a more dignified and less contentious way.

The new law has swept away the need to prove “facts” which have existed for 50 years. These facts were: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years’ separation with consent, five years’ separation without consent, and desertion.

The spouse petitioning had then to prove whichever fact is chosen – usually unreasonable behaviour or adultery if they did not want to wait at least two years. This caused unnecessary conflict at the very outset of proceedings, or a long delay.

From 6 April 2022, it will be possible for one spouse to apply for a divorce order, setting out a statement simply that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Both spouses can apply jointly. There will be no requirement to choose a fact and no requirement of proof. The court must accept the statement of breakdown.

A new online divorce portal has taken off over the 18 months. Together with the new no-fault law, the changes will enable divorcing couples to proceed simply and more constructively.

These changes do not constitute a “quickie divorce”. The divorcing couple will have to wait until the cooling off period of 20 weeks has expired from the first statement. Only then can they make an application for the conditional order to be made. They must then wait a further 6 weeks until they can ask the court to make a final order ending the marriage. So, the minimum time is 26 weeks i.e., 6 months.

It is no longer possible to contest a divorce. The headline-grabbing case of Owens v Owens in 2018 will be a thing of the past. The court told Mrs Owens  she must remain married to her husband on the basis she had not sufficiently proven that her husband’s behaviour was “unreasonable enough”. The Supreme Court made her wait until 5 years separation from her husband. Only then could the divorce go through under the old law. This case shocked many and led to the law changes now.

If you would like to discuss matters further, please get in touch and we will be happy to talk you through your options and these changes.

Please note that all references above to marriage and spouses apply equally to civil partnerships and civil partners since the law is to all intents and purposes identical.