Published On: Mon, Apr 11th, 2022

No-fault divorce explained: Everything you need to know if you’re planning to separate

The biggest shakeup in divorce law for 50 years has now arrived in the UK, ending the need to lay blame on one of the parties so a couple can legally separate. But with all legal matters comes a lot of jargon and details – so what exactly do you need to know if you’re thinking of getting a divorce soon?

Divorce is one of the most stressful events a person can go through in life, and until now, the sting of ending a marriage can result in particularly acrimonious disputes – as well as vast legal fees.

Until April 6, 2022, one spouse was forced to accuse the other of causing the breakdown of the marriage in order to legally part ways.

When justifying the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage, spouses had to choose between adultery, “unreasonable behaviour”, desertion of two years, two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation.

The archaic rules meant some people could remain married to a person they no longer love for half a decade, causing immense stress and financial difficulty for some.

READ MORE: New no-fault divorce laws leaves women at risk of losing pension

Does no-fault divorce make things quicker?

Sheena Cassidy Hope, Managing Associate at Mishcon de Reya in the Family Law team: “The new procedure imposes a minimum period of 20 weeks between the divorce application and the applicant being able to apply for the first part of the divorce (a ‘conditional order’).

“Once a conditional order is made, there will be a further minimum wait of six weeks before a final order can be made, making the process for obtaining a divorce under the new law potentially slower than under the ‘fault-based’ regime.

“The practical result is that the marriage will legally continue for a minimum of six months after a divorce application is made and the applicant has confirmed that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

“For survivors of abuse seeking to exit a marriage as swiftly as possible, this built-in delay seems unhelpful.”

Will no-fault divorce make things less acrimonious?

This will depend on the parties getting divorced, of course, but in some instances, it can bring couples who are united in their desire to divorce to a much easier conclusion.

Antonia Felix, Partner in Mishcon de Reya’s Family team, told “With the new no-fault divorce regime, parties can either jointly make an application for a divorce or there can be a sole applicant but without the need to prove why the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

“This takes out the ‘sting’ at the start of the process when one party would historically often have to read what they perceive as inaccurate or false examples of their behaviour, creating acrimony rather than focusing on progressing the matter.”

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