The Long-Awaited No-Fault Divorce 

June, 2021 - Shoosmiths LLP

Ministers announced yesterday that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which allows married couples to divorce without assigning blame, will not come into force until 6 April 2022. 

The announcement follows the long-awaited no fault divorce bill, which gained royal assent last year, Whilst the delay is disappointing for some, at least there is now certainty as to when the reform will finally be introduced. It is understood that the delay is due to IT changes that need to be made to the court’s online systems.

What does no-fault divorce mean for divorcing couples?

The Law Society said ‘no-fault’ divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century and they are quite right. Previously there had to be some element of ‘blame’ for one party to petition for divorce against the other, unless they had been separated for at least two years. This often increased legal fees and animosity at such an early stage, making later discussions regarding children and financial matters more difficult.

The introduction of a ‘no fault’ divorce system means that couples will be able to petition for divorce jointly without either person being held at fault. This can be done in a joint statement or by an individual simply stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and there is no requirement of proof. This should make it much easier for lawyers to be better able to support couples to resolve matters as constructively and amicably as possible, minimising the impact on any children involved.

Is a no-fault divorce going to speed up the divorce procedure?

The new law will remove some delays in the initial stages of issuing the divorce, but it is not a case of an ‘instant divorce’, as the divorce procedure has a built in cooling off period. The parties must wait a minimum of 20 weeks from the date of the application for divorce, to when the conditional order can be made and then a further 6 weeks until the divorce final order can be made which ends the marriage. This is intended to allow a period of time for reflection and time to resolve financial and children matters.


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