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What Does No Fault Divorce Mean for Separating Couples?

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From 6 April 2022 the divorce ‘blame game’ has ended with new no fault divorce rules coming into effect across England and Wales. These new laws will allow couples who are married or in a civil partnership to separate more cooperatively without assigning blame or needing to live apart for years before their union can be legally dissolved.

If you are planning to get divorced under the new rules, it is important to understand how divorce law in England and Wales is changing and what this means for you.

How is divorce law changing in April 2022?

Under the previous rules, a divorce had to be initiated by one petitioner who had to accuse their spouse of either adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour. Alternatively, the marriage could be legally dissolved if the couple had lived separately for a minimum of 2 years (if both spouses agreed to the divorce) or 5 years (if one spouse opposed the divorce).

Many believed that these laws reflected an old-fashioned view of marriage and desired a more amicable way for a divorce to be attained. Because of this, for the first time in 50 years, divorce laws have changed to reduce dispute among couples and simplify this complex and emotionally charged process.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 that came into effect on 6 April 2022 will reduce the damaging effect of a divorce by removing the need to make accusations. Instead, couples will simply need to provide a sole or joint statement declaring that the marriage has been irretrievable broken down.

Further changes include no longer allowing a divorce to be contested and an update to the terminology used throughout the process, making the system more transparent and accessible for the people using it.

The 4 key changes you need to know:

  1. The introduction of a minimum 20-week cooling-off period between the initial application and the conditional order (formerly called a ‘decree nisi’) plus a further 6 weeks between the conditional order and the final order (formerly the ‘decree absolute’).
  2. Spouses can now make a joint application for a divorce.
  3. The option to contest to a divorce has been removed.
  4. Couples can now state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down without placing blame on a single spouse for adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour or facing a long separation.

Is no fault divorce better for separating couples?

The new laws aim to reduce the emotional strain, conflict and increasing legal costs by removing the need to assign blame. Without the need for accusations of adultery, desertion, and unreasonable behaviour, there can be more cooperative and significantly less cooperation.

This is especially beneficial when it comes to making decisions regarding children. Allowing parents to more easily maintain a united front that will help the child through the divorce and have a better chance of cooperation in the future.

The changes implemented provide the applicants with plenty of time to consider and make necessary decisions regarding finances and child arrangements. These are crucial elements of any divorce, especially when there are children involved, yet under the current laws this process is often disrupted by further breakdown of the relationship.

Further benefits of the no fault divorce include protecting victims of domestic abuse by preventing their spouse from contesting the divorce.

Will no fault divorce make getting divorced faster?

Before 6 April 2022, the shortest amount of time it would take to complete a divorce was 3-4 months. With the new no fault divorce laws in effect, that time frame will increase to 6 months.

This increase is due to the addition of a minimum 20-week cooling-off period, which has been included to give the couple time to make practical decisions and arrangements regarding their separation. This is on top of the 6-week period between the granting of the conditional order and the final order, which has been retained from the previous rules.

Do you need a solicitor for a no fault divorce?

Despite being a longer process, the new laws are making divorce more straightforward and accessible. Applications are now completely digital and can easily be done online, removing the risk of postal delays or errors. On top of this, there is no longer any need for the respondent to defend or cross apply for the divorce.

Even so, there are many benefits to having experienced divorce solicitors on your side and we highly recommended that they are used to help navigate the more delicate aspects of a divorce.

A divorce solicitor is also able to provide support and guidance at each stage of the divorce process to help spouses to avoid setbacks and risks along the way. This includes making childcare arrangements as well as negotiating the division of marital finances as well as being able to discuss your options, clarify any questions, and better understand your rights.

Speak with our divorce solicitors in Hoddesdon & Broxbourne

For a friendly, informal discussion about how our family lawyers can help you with any aspect of divorce, please get in touch.