The introduction of ‘No Fault Divorce’ in April 2022 is an important landmark in Family Law. This article covers how the law will be changing.
For years, divorce in England and Wales relied on the apportionment of blame, unless the parties had been separated for two years already. This meant that even if both parties consented to the split, one was still required to divorce the other for either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. These were the only two immediate grounds for divorce at the time; very often this led to resentment and further issues.
How No Fault Divorce is changing the legal landscape
The law is changing and, from April 2022, it will provide for divorce on a ‘no fault’ basis. This means that at any stage after separating, one or both of the parties can apply to the Court for a divorce, on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Unlike before, they will not need to give the reason for the breakdown.
The new process
As part of the new ‘No Fault Divorce’ process, a ‘cooling off’ period has been added, making parties wait 20 weeks from the date of their application before a Conditional Order is granted (this is the new terminology for Decree Nisi).
A further six weeks after the Conditional Order, a Final Order can be applied for (formerly the Decree Absolute) to bring the marriage to an end. Much like Decree Absolute, this may be delayed whilst financial arrangements are resolved.
Why they have introduced No Fault Divorce
It is hoped that these changes will help divorcing spouses start off in a constructive way, without the acrimony of assigning blame at an already difficult time.
This discussion has taken place for many years and has been a long time coming. The existing system was first criticised by the Law Commission in the 1990s. Then, through The Family Law Act 1996, Parliament enacted a ‘no fault’ divorce regime but this was never implemented. The coming law change was announced with the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, after much campaigning by family law professionals.
Though the change is finally close, there may be reasons not to delay, for example there are certain tax implications to be considered. You can read more about that here.
Our team have a wealth of experience in dealing with divorce and drafting divorce petitions and are well prepared to embrace the coming change. If you would like advice or support with your divorce, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.