No-fault divorce legislation and what it means for divorcing couples

3rd January 2024

In April 2022, the Government announced the cessation of the grounds for divorce element contained within the dissolution of marriage process.

This creation of a no-fault divorce proceeding eliminated the need to cite specific grounds such as conduct or prolonged separation in the divorce application to promote more amicable and less confrontational divorces.

The Government described this as an end to the “blame game” and said: “It ends completely the need for separating couples to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage, helping them to instead focus on key practical decisions involving children or their finances and look to the future.”

It was also a recognition of changing societal norms that had previously been a part of the divorce process and reflected a more progressive approach to separation.

The approach is designed so that couples who acknowledge that their relationship has irretrievably broken down can get divorced without blaming each other.

The essence of the no-fault divorce procedure

In our experience, no-fault divorce has led to one partner being able to dissolve the marriage without the other’s consent, meaning they are no longer beholden to abusive partners, mistreatment, abandonment, or other negative elements of a broken marriage.

Early concerns included whether the change might increase divorce rates.

But if anything, the 20-week waiting period allows couples time to think more carefully about the consequences of divorce and to properly negotiate a financial settlement and deal with the arrangements for the children.

The process of no-fault divorce

The no-fault divorce process involves several steps, starting with the submission of an application that states the marriage’s irretrievable breakdown.

Following the application and service on the other party (meaning it must be proved the other spouse has received notice of the divorce), there is a mandatory 20-week reflection period, allowing both parties time to consider their decision.

After this period, a Conditional Order is issued.

The divorce is finalised with a Final Order, which can be applied for six weeks after the Conditional Order.

The minimum duration for this process is 26 weeks.

Who pays the legal fees?

Determining who pays the legal fees in a no-fault divorce can vary depending on the couple’s arrangement.

Typically, each party is responsible for their own legal expenses.

It’s not uncommon for couples to agree to share the costs, particularly in cases where the decision to divorce is mutual.

The Ansons analysis of no-fault divorce

Initially, there was worry, especially amongst policymakers and family law solicitors, that no-fault divorces would fail to adequately safeguard marriage as an ‘institution’ and increase divorce rates as a result.

However, according to Resolution, no-fault divorce has not led to a sustained increase in divorce rates in other countries that have adopted the system, including Scotland, which introduced no-fault divorce in 2006. This excludes a brief period of increased divorce rates shortly after the legislation is introduced as couples who have been waiting finally get divorced.

Despite the straightforward nature of no-fault divorce, the role of the family solicitor remains crucial. Legal professionals provide invaluable advice on all aspects of separation, including financial settlements, living arrangements, and child arrangement issues.

We assist in ensuring that both parties reach a fair and equitable agreement, considering the long-term implications of the divorce.

If you need advice on no-fault divorce proceedings, please get in touch with Ansons Solicitors.