Family law

What changes are coming with no fault divorce?

We clearly outline what changes will be introduced following the new no fault divorce UK legislation on 6 April and how this differs from the current divorce process.

11 March 2022

What is a no fault divorce and why is it being introduced?

UK divorce legislation has been seen by many as outdated, with the process of having to assign blame being deemed as unnecessary. In fact, our research* found that over one quarter of divorced people (26%) accepted the blame, even though it wasn’t their fault.

The no-fault divorce changes how couples can apply for a divorce, and terms and phrases are also being updated and simplified, helping to alleviate some of the stress and confusion that can be involved.

As you’ll no longer need to assign blame by relying on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour - if you’ve not been separated for two years or more (instead simply relying on a statement of irretrievable breakdown) - there should be more time for productive and amicable conversations around matrimonial finances and arrangements for children.

Who can start divorce proceedings?

Up until the 6 April 2022, where spouses haven’t been separated for two years or more, one person must start divorce proceedings and assign blame. They’re known as the petitioner whilst the other party is known as the respondent.

However, with the new divorce law a joint application is being introduced for the first time.

In the case of a joint application, the court will send notice of the issued petition to both parties and they must acknowledge receipt.

With a sole application, the respondent must file an acknowledgement of service (a document asking the respondent to acknowledge receipt of notice that the applicant wishes to divorce) within 14 days of service. If they intend to dispute the proceedings, they must file notice of this within 21 days, following the initial 14 days. This will be known as a ‘disputed’ case rather than a ‘defended’ case.

Although the no-fault divorce removes the decision to contest, there’ll still be legal grounds for a respondent to challenge if required. It’s best to speak to a family lawyer in the first instance if you believe you may have grounds to challenge a petition.

How has the divorce process changed with no-fault divorce?

Up until 6 April 2022, the application for a decree nisi would be the first stage – decree nisi meaning a first decree confirming the petitioner has sufficiently proved that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is the midway point of the divorce process.

The decree absolute concludes the divorce process and legally ends the marriage, and the decree absolute certificate confirms that you’re no longer married.

However, with a no-fault divorce, the decree nisi will be known more simply as the conditional order and the decree absolute will be known as the final order.

The application for conditional order can be made after the initial 20-week period, providing there’s no intention to dispute. Following the pronouncement of a conditional order, an applicant will need to wait six weeks before the final order can be applied for, and therefore the divorce process will take a minimum of six months to complete.

Will no-fault divorce alter the time it takes to get a divorce?

A minimum time frame of six months will be introduced from the initial petition stage to final order, offering a period of reflection, as well as providing couples with more time to settle any financial or child arrangements. This includes the 20-week period mentioned above, as well as a six-week period from decree nisi to decree absolute; known simply as conditional order to final order with a no-fault divorce.

However, the court will have the discretion to shorten this time period if required and there’ll be special protection for the respondent to delay the final order. Your divorce lawyer will be able to support you with any special considerations.

When will no fault divorce begin in UK?

No fault divorce is expected to come in from 6 April 2022 after having been delayed since 2020.

How can Slater and Gordon help?

Navigating the divorce process and stages of divorce may feel daunting for many, particularly at what can be a challenging and emotional time, and the introduction of new legislation may feel even more daunting.

We’re experts in all aspects of family law, and our team of family solicitors can assist with UK no fault divorce. Our trusted divorce lawyers are already advising clients about the new divorce law, preparing them for the divorce steps they need to take to start their new chapter in life.

We offer competitive fixed-fee divorces starting at just £540 including VAT plus court fees. If you’d like to speak to one of our experienced team of family law solicitors, simply get in touch on 0330 041 5869, or, if you prefer, you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

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