Family & Divorce

No Fault Divorce

It is widely accepted amongst practitioners that this long awaited, and much needed reform is the biggest shake up in divorce law for the last 50 years. From 6 April 2022, the new law on no-fault divorce in the UK, will allow separating couples to be able to get a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or legal separation without having to blame each other for the breakdown of their relationship.



The current law

Under the current law, couples wanting to separate in the UK must rely on one or more ‘facts’ to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. These facts are:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery (not available for civil partnership dissolution)
  • Desertion for at least 2 years
  • Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of both parties
  • Separation for at least 5 years even if one party disagrees

This means that unless a couple lives separately for at least 2 years they can only get a divorce if one person blames the other for this irretrievable breakdown of their marriage, and this must fall into the category of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This legal requirement to effectively assign blame makes it harder for couples to reach an amicable agreement at an already difficult and often emotional time.

The new Law

1. Removal of fault

Under the new law, no fault divorce removes the element of fault or blame from the divorce process. This means that separating couples will no longer have to rely on one of the ‘five facts’ to prove the ground for divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. This will hopefully encourage a more conciliatory, constructive, and non-confrontational way of solving divorce and separation proceedings.

2. Apply for divorce jointly

Currently one spouse needs to issue divorce proceedings against the other but the new law means that couples will be able to apply for divorce jointly where the couple both agrees that the relationship has irretrievably broken down (applicants will still be able to submit a sole application if their partner does not agree).

3. New terminology

Some of the divorce terminology has also been updated. For example, ‘Decree Nisi’ will become a ‘Conditional Order’, a ‘Decree Absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’ and the person applying for the divorce will be called the applicant, instead of the petitioner.

4. Remove the ability to contest a divorce, dissolution or separation

Currently, if the person applying for a divorce, cites their spouse’s behaviour or a period of separation as the reason for the divorce, their spouse can contest this and potentially prevent a divorce. Under the new no fault divorce system, this option will be removed.

5. There will be a minimum of 20 weeks between the application and conditional order

With the new time scales, most couples will have to wait about 6 months for their divorce or dissolution to finalise. This time is intended to be a period of reflection for both parties to consider whether they truly want to separate and potentially work through their differences before committing to a divorce

For any further advice about no-fault divorce or any other divorce matter, please get in touch with one of family team at Collyer Bristow.



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Christina Pippas



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