No fault divorce from April 2022

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame, will come into force on 6th April 2022.

It means "No-fault" divorces in England and Wales will be permitted and will stop couples blaming each other and allow irretrievable breakdown as a reason to split.

The changes, which are the biggest in divorce law in 50 years, include removing the historical reasons for finishing a marriage and updating archaic language to more modern terms.

How it stands now…

Current law requires people seeking divorce to give evidence of one of five facts to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; three are based on fault and two are based instead on a period of separation.

The five facts are:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • 2 years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), and
  • 5 years’ separation (otherwise).

From April, under the new law, they will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

What are the changes?

From April, there will no longer be a requirement for the party to prove fault, and they will instead need to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage or a joint statement, if both parties have applied for a divorce.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the legal requirements and process for divorce.

The act also introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order. This provides couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to cooperate and plan for the future.

It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds including jurisdiction.

Currently, someone wishing to obtain a divorce without the consent of their spouse must live apart from them for five years, should they not wish to lay blame on the other party.

It will also see a change in language to bring it into modern times. The terms "decree nisi" and "decree absolute" will be replaced with "conditional order" and "final order" and "Petitioners" will become "applicants".

Why introduce the changes?

The act aims to reduce the potential for conflict amongst divorcing couples by:

  • removing the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse
  • allowing couples to end their marriage jointly

The new law also aims to ease the impact of unnecessary conflict on couples and children and reduce family conflict.

For further information on divorce proceedings and to book your free 30-minute consultation with the Family Law team call Lindsey Canning at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 224 2081 or at [email protected] 

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