No-Fault Divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, (dubbed the ‘no-fault divorce bill’) will come into force in April 2022 and represents arguably the most far reaching changes to UK divorce law in over 60 years. But what do the changes entail? What do they mean for individuals getting divorced? And for those considering divorce, is it worth waiting for the changes to come into force before instigating proceedings?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed in June 2020 and the government is working on implementation of the changes.

Currently, under UK law when a party wishes to divorce, they must evidence to the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and may rely on one of ‘five facts’ to evidence the break down. The five facts are:

-        Unreasonable behaviour

-        Adultery

-        2 years separation with consent

-        5 years separation without consent

-        Desertion

What this means in reality, is that if an individual or a couple decide they wish to divorce and do not want to wait two years before commencing the proceedings, one party must cite the un-reasonable behaviour of the other. This effectively lays the ‘blame’ for the break down of the relationship on the other party and understandably, can often cause additional, unnecessary hurt and acrimony at an already stressful time. This can have a knock-on effect on arrangements involving children and finances and has, for some time, been considered unhelpful by legal practitioners.

The new legislation aims to prevent this and will:

-        replace the ‘five facts’ with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown

-        remove the possibility of contesting the divorce

-        introduce an option for a joint application

-        make sure language is in plain English, for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order

These changes will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

It is hoped that these changes will reduce animosity between divorcing parties and make the whole process far more straight forward. Unfortunately, due to time constraints in the House of Commons the legislation, which it had been hoped would come into force this autumn, will not be implemented until April next year.

Where does this leave parties who wish to remain on amicable terms throughout the divorce process and who find the concept of a ‘no-fault’ divorce appealing?

Delaying proceedings may sound like a sensible option however, this is not without risk. Until a divorce application has been issued and progressed, there can be no legally binding agreement in respect of matrimonial finances. This could leave both parties open to financial risk and should there be a souring of relations between the parties for any reason, even cause their financial position to be prejudiced.

Grant Stephens Family Law are members of Resolution, an organisation founded in 1982, whose aim is to produce better outcomes for separating families and their children. Our work is guided by the Resolution Code of Conduct and as such, we are committed to working in a way that promotes amicable relations between parties.

We are used to helping our clients navigate the divorce process in a positive and constructive manner, whether that involves a properly drafted divorce petition that can be agreed with the other side or financial settlements achieved through negotiation and without the need for Court proceedings.

We also have several solicitors who specialise in collaborative law, a process designed to help parties with more complex financial arrangements reach agreement in respect of divorce and finances without recourse to the Courts.

We would therefore advise anyone who is currently considering divorce not to delay, but to contact us for an initial free consultation. We will work with you to ensure the process is as straight forward and amicable as possible whilst also achieving a fair and positive outcome.

Amber Harding photo

Article written by Amber Harding,
Family Law Solicitor.

Grant Stephens Family Law

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