New legislation

No-fault divorce a step closer to being introduced

Published: 21st June 2021
Area: Family
UPDATED 8 June 2021 – Ministers have announced that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force on 6 April 2022, allowing married couples to divorce without assigning blame or fault.

This follows the royal assent of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill (commonly referred to as the no-fault divorce bill) on 25 June 2020.

The news that no-fault divorces are to become law will lead to a sigh of relief for many. Although a long time coming, the latest announcement does mean that the UK is one large step closer to ending unnecessary mud-slinging and allowing couples to divorce with dignity.

How will no-fault divorce work?

The announcement means that couples will no longer have to agree to be separated for two years, or have proof of their partner being at fault, in order to file for divorce. Only one person needs to desire the divorce, and their spouse will not be able to refuse the application.

Being able to apply for a no-fault divorce will spare couples the emotional stress and strain of finding blame for an unreasonable behaviour petition or when they can’t, or don’t want to, wait two years to divorce on the grounds of separation or five years if they do not have the consent of the other spouse.

It should be noted that under the new law, the statutory timeframe means that a divorce cannot be concluded in less than 26 weeks. Although it is possible for this to be shorter under the current law, it is still unusual for it to be less than four months, not including the time taken to resolve financial claims. As a result, the overall timeframe of the new system will be largely in line with the existing one. Plus, a fixed timeframe allows parties to reflect on whether the decision to end the marriage is the right one.

What has caused the delay?

Following the tireless campaigning of family lawyers, the government has spent a significant amount of time over the past few years trying to make the divorce process simpler.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act receiving Royal Assent was a real breakthrough moment, with many hoping no-fault divorce would come into play by early 2021 at the latest. However, following delays, the act will now come into force on 6 April 2022. We understand the date of 6 April 2022 is to allow time to become familiar with the new process, and for any necessary IT changes to be made to HMCTS’s online divorce systems so that new process works as intended and is fit for purpose.

It has been a long time coming, but it feels like we are nearly at the finish line. No-fault divorces will take a huge amount of anxiety away from the process, benefitting a significant number of people.

Guiding you through the divorce process

The introduction of no-fault divorce is one of the most significant changes in family law in the last 50 years. Ending a marriage is a monumental decision, and that won’t change. It’s important to remember that the actions you take in the early stages can set the tone for everything that follows.

Some couples may wish to delay proceedings until they can progress on a no-fault basis. Others, who were expecting the change in Autumn 2021, may feel that their issues have become more time critical. People in this situation should seek advice and consider proceeding on the basis of ‘agreed’ particulars of unreasonable behaviour. Whilst that does still mean one party is assigned some ‘fault’, it is an agreed decision, intended to benefit them both if there are financial issues to resolve.

If you’re about to start divorce proceedings, or currently going through the separation process, then speak to one of our divorce lawyers. We’re here to guide you through the maze of emotions and legal responsibilities, every step of the way.

You can also read our step by step guide on how to get a divorce. Find out more here >>

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