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No fault Divorce UK – What you need to know

Do I have grounds for a no-fault divorce?

Since April 2022 when the new Divorce law introduced no fault divorce UK, the only requirement is that you need to confirm that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. It is no longer necessary to apportion blame or fault.

You therefore must confirm that the marriage has completely broken down before you can continue with the divorce.

Now, with the new no fault divorce law, no blame has to be assigned to seek a divorce, and so no evidence is required to show the marriage has broken down irretrievably. All you must do is tick a box to confirm that it has.

Will I be able to use the no fault regime if I am in a civil partnership? 

Yes, the no fault regime applies equally to civil partners and the dissolution of civil partnerships as well as marriages.

How is a no fault divorce different from the previous divorce law? 

Under the previous law, you needed to show that your marriage had irretrievably broken down due to one of the following 5 facts:

  • Adultery
  • Behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation by consent
  • 5 years separation.

The new divorce law UK ends the need to blame or find fault. The divorce application simply requires you confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. You can now apply by yourself or make a joint application with your spouse.

There are also much more limited grounds on which a party can object to the divorce proceedings.

The new divorce law also introduced a minimum period of six months, so that it’s now not possible to get divorced in less than six months.

The language which is used in divorce has also changed:

  • A divorce petition is now a ‘divorce application’.
  • A Petitioner is now an ‘Applicant’.
  • The Decree Nisi is now a ‘Conditional Order’.
  • A Decree Absolute is now a ‘Final Order’.

Who can apply for a no fault divorce UK?

Anyone who has been married or in a civil partnership for more than 12 months is entitled to a divorce/dissolution in England and Wales.

Generally, you can get divorced in England and Wales if you or your spouse live or are domiciled here. You don’t need British citizenship and you can get divorced in England or Wales even if you were married in another country.

Do both parties have to agree? 

No-fault divorce introduces the option for separating, amicable couples to start their divorce with a joint application. However, this is not a requirement for no-fault divorce, and sole parties are still able to complete the divorce process independently as needed.

Who pays for a no-fault divorce UK?

Usually the applying for the divorce pays for divorce. If it is a joint application the costs can be shared.

What are the benefits of joint application for divorce? 

Jointly applying for a divorce is a sensible way to say, “We have both decided to end the marriage and want to do so together.” It sets the tone for future discussions on other matters such as children and/or finances.

Can a no fault divorce be contested?

Under the new divorce laws introduced in April 2022, it is no longer possible to contest a divorce.

You can only dispute the divorce if you have a legal reason. These include:

Jurisdiction – if you of your partner live in another country, the courts in England and Wales may not be handle your application.

If you can prove that the marriage or civil partnership was never valid. For example, if the marriage/civil partnership was not conducted in accordance with the laws of the country in which you married, meaning you did not enter into a legally legitimate marriage/civil partnership.

If the marriage/civil partnership has already legally ended. For example, if you’ve already gone through divorce proceedings in another country.

If any of the reasons for contesting a divorce apply, you will need to file a response to the application explaining your reason for disputing the proceedings.

What if I don’t want a divorce?

The new law takes away the ability to oppose a divorce and any disagreement is irrelevant in UK divorce law.

As the only ground for divorce now is that one or both parties believe the marriage has irretrievably broken down, it does not matter whether you challenge or disagree with the application for divorce. No other facts have a bearing on the divorce process or outcome.

The new law is effectively saying that it takes two to remain in a marriage.

How long will the divorce process take?

There is a new minimum overall timeframe of six months (26 weeks), made up of a ‘minimum period’ of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings (when the court issues the divorce application) and when the applicant(s) may apply for a conditional order.

How long does a no fault divorce take?

The no-fault divorce timeline is broadly:

  • One party, or both parties together will give notice that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by completing an application
  • 20 weeks after the application has been issued by the court, the applicant or applicants confirm that they want to proceed with the divorce by applying for a Conditional Order
  • The court can then make a Conditional Order
  • After another 6 weeks, the court can make a Final Order, which brings the marriage to an end.

What are the benefits of a no-fault divorce? 

Less confrontational – No-fault divorce allows couples to obtain a divorce without the need to outline the bad behaviour or prove fault. This can make the process of obtaining a divorce less confrontational or traumatic.

Simplicity – As it is no longer necessary to prove fault, the process is now relatively simple and straightforward. Very little needs to go into the divorce application apart from your personal details, the details of the marriage and confirmation that the marriage has broken down.

It is very difficult to defend a divorce application under the new no-fault divorce laws than it was previously. Defences to divorce now involve legal technicalities rather than contesting the grounds for divorce based on the contents of the application.

More Time to Reconsider Options – Under the new no-fault divorce laws in England and Wales, there is a minimum waiting period of 20 weeks between the application being issued and being able to apply for the conditional order (the reflection period), and a further 6 weeks and 1 day between the conditional order and Final Order.  This is a longer period than under the old rules. This gives couples the opportunity for additional time to consider their options and potentially reconcile before moving forward with the divorce. This may be beneficial for couples who are not yet certain that they want to end their marriage and want to explore the possibility of reconciliation before moving forward with the divorce process.

What are the problems with no-fault divorce?

A potential problem with no fault divorce is that neither party is held accountable for the breakdown of the marriage. This may be frustrating for individuals who feel that their spouse’s behaviour or actions played a significant role in the breakdown of the marriage.

Another potential problem is couples may give up on marriage too easily. The new law however builds in a compulsory 20-week reflection period after an application is made to give the party or parties making the application for divorce time to reflect, consider their situation, receive legal advice, and potentially turn back the process.

How quick is a no-fault divorce UK?

On average it takes 37.5 weeks to reach final order, reflecting the statutory 20 week waiting period between application and conditional order.

Can I still divorce based on a spouse’s adultery or behaviour?

Yes and no. You can still use their adultery or behaviour as the reason why you consider the marriage to have irretrievably broken down, but you cannot specifically cite adultery or behaviour as a ground for divorce under no-fault divorce.

What could cause the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage?

Issues that could cause a marriage to irretrievably break down include: extra-marital affairs, lack of sexual intimacy, financial problems, loss of trust, being separated, inability to communicate, violent or abusive behaviour, growing apart due to different goals and interests, different political or religious beliefs.

Is it possible to apply for a quick no fault divorce?

It takes on average 37.5 weeks from start to finish to finalise a divorce or dissolution. However, if you make a joint application for divorce or dissolution this may shorten the process as an Acknowledgment of Service will not have to be sent as both parties are applying for the divorce/dissolution.

Can I apply for a no-fault divorce now?

Yes, as long as you have been married or in a civil partnership for more than 12 months.

What is the purpose of the 20-week reflection period?

The reflection period is designed to give the couple time to reflect and decide whether their marriage or civil partnership has really irretrievably broken down. It also gives them time to resolve financial issues or arrangements for any children they may have. If the application for divorce or dissolution has been made on a joint basis, the 20-week period is the ideal time to begin negotiations on the division of assets and to begin the process of financial disclosure.

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