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The new “No Fault” Divorce

For those who are reading this and are thinking about getting divorced but are not sure about which of the available reasons or facts to rely upon in their application, particularly if the separation is amicable, some welcome news is that the new No Fault divorce option came into effect in England and Wales on the 6th of April 2022. From that date couples are now able to get divorced without one person needing to blame the other. This change will also apply to civil partnership dissolution.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is the biggest reform of divorce law in half a century and means that you will no longer have to make allegations about your partner’s conduct to obtain a divorce. Under the previous laws, one spouse would have been required to allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour to prove the irretrievable breakdown (the only grounds for divorce) of the marriage or wait at least two years in addition to obtaining the consent of the other spouse.

Under the new law, irretrievable breakdown will remain the sole reason for divorce but the need to give a reason will be removed. Couples are now able to make a joint application where they both agree that the relationship has broken down or, alternatively, only one of the parties can apply. There will be a minimum period of 20 weeks between the issuing of the application and reaching the first stage of the divorce to give the parties a period of reflection and to consider the possibility of a reconciliation.

This long-awaited reform to the law will allow separating couples the opportunity to manage the process in as amicable a manner as possible, rather than allocating blame, especially when the separation is a joint decision and there are children involved. Children certainly deal better with a separation when their parents are not in conflict, and they can see that their parents are working together in relation to their parenting. This tends to have a lasting, positive impact on the children which they can carry through with them into adulthood.

As the average length of a marriage at the time of divorce is just over 12 years, this is a significant amount of time to spend with a partner. Frequently, having a good relationship with your ex and with your broader social circle is a high priority during a separation but can be impacted upon by the wrong approach or legal advice. A good divorce lawyer will take note of what your concerns and priorities are and work towards achieving these, together with any other professionals you may need to support you during the process.

During the whole divorce process, you will also be thinking about how you are feeling and will require thought about how you can take care of yourself during this stressful time. As part of understanding how you are feeling, this will more than likely also allow you to think about how you are conducting yourself with your ex and the children as well as reflecting how the process and situation may be affecting some of the decisions you will be needing to make.

It is vital that you seek professional legal advice at the earliest opportunity if you are thinking about divorce as there are several factors to consider.

There are different tax rules depending on whether you are married, separated, or divorced. Tax advantages may only apply in the current tax year and it is advisable to consider any tax implications of a divorce under the new laws.

Applying for divorce from the 6th of April 2022

Spouses are now able to apply for a “Divorce Order”. This will end the marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Importantly, neither spouse will have to evidence the irretrievable breakdown by relying on one of the old blame-based facts. Under the new system, the parties will only be required to submit a statement to the court, which will be treated as clear evidence of the irretrievable breakdown. It will still be possible for one spouse only to apply for a divorce, however, the new divorce law will permit couples to apply jointly to the court for a divorce and separate as amicably as possible, crucially without the need to place blame on the other party.

The new procedure

The new procedure has been simplified and the previous, somewhat outdated, language has been modernised, making it easier to understand the process from the start. The divorce process will still involve the two stages of Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute. However, what used to be called the “Decree Nisi” will now be called a “Conditional Order” of divorce and the “Decree Absolute” will become the “Final Order” of divorce.

In addition, the new divorce laws removes the ability for one spouse to contest or defend the divorce, which is something that could have been used by one party to frustrate or delay the process in addition to causing a significant increase in costs and time.


A new minimum period of 20 weeks between the date of the initial application and the Conditional Order can be applied for is part of the new process. The reasoning behind this window is to allow for a period of “meaningful reflection”. If, after the applying spouse has reflected and still wishes to progress the divorce, they must confirm this to the Court when they apply for a Conditional Order. If the parties have applied jointly for the divorce, both must confirm that they wish to apply for a Conditional Order.

The Conditional Order will not be made final until at least six weeks have passed. Therefore, in theory at least, the whole process could take 26 weeks. As with the divorce advice that is currently given though, the parties are advised to delay an application to make the Conditional Order into a Final Order, until they have resolved the matrimonial finance matters.

New Divorce Application Fee

As of the 30th of September 2021, several Court related fees have increased, with the cost of submitting a divorce petition rising from £550 to £593.

Should you be in a situation where you are thinking about separating, and wish to learn more about the options available to you, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our friendly and professional team for a confidential no-obligation consultation.