What to know about the new no-fault divorce
Divorce has long been portrayed as a fraught and embittered process that frequently drags on for months, forcing the ex-spouses to confront one another and, essentially, lock heads until they have convinced the courts that their marriage is no longer salvageable. Couples that may otherwise have separated with a mutual respect and good sentiment for one another can be harmed further by the ‘finger pointing’ that has been part-and-parcel of divorce proceedings within the UK for many years.
As of 6 April 2022, however, the requirements have changed, and divorcing spouses no longer need to attribute fault to one party or the other in order to prove that their marriage has reached its end.
This change in law is known as no-fault divorce, and it offers a much more level-headed approach to the process for couples who would rather end their journey amicably than bitterly.
What to know
Previously, applying for a divorce required one party to cite a “fact” for the breakdown of the marriage within the initial application. These facts were limiting, and very clearly passed the blame to one person, whether they were accused of unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or abandonment.
Now, however, it’s possible to choose to file jointly with the spouse, or independently (even if the spouse does not share the desire to divorce). No reasons need to be given for the decision.
What follows is a minimum period of 20 weeks, during which time both parties can reflect, have the opportunity to change their minds, and make plans for matters like finances, living arrangements, and custody of children.
After this interim period has ended, a ‘conditional order’ can be applied for. Once received, the applicants will need to wait a minimum six weeks before the final order – which formally dissolves the marriage – can be given.
It’s important to keep in mind that no fault divorces do not represent a ‘cookie cutter’ solution to a marriage that has run its course. Couples and individuals will still want to consult with an experienced divorce solicitor in order to ensure matters like finances, property and children are addressed fairly and clearly. It’s possible to find out more about this at https://willans.co.uk.
The most obvious benefit to this new divorce law is that it maintains an amicable relationship, which may otherwise have been strained by one party (the applicant) having no other option than to point the finger at the other. When the couple share children – or, potentially, have to continue operating a business together after the divorce – this could often represent a major blow to their ongoing relationship.
Previously, the only option for couples who did not wish to attribute blame was to go through a period of two years’ separation (or five, if only one party wanted to pursue the divorce), which made it difficult for the individuals to start a brand-new chapter in their separate lives.
It also offers applicants security against their partner defending the divorce proceedings unnecessarily. The emotional and financial burden of lengthy proceedings, caused by one spouse refusing to accept the divorce, represented a major hurdle for anyone pursuing divorce before.
One of the things that was considered divisive about this new change to divorce law was the risk that it would lead to a harsh rise in the number of couples pursuing divorce. The argument went that making divorce easier would limit the cases of couples putting effort into reconciliation and making their marriage work. This is, of course, something of a slippery slope argument, and the new hope offered to couples and individuals across the country who know that their marriage is unsalvageable is worth far more in the short- and long-term.
Ultimately, it may take some adjusting for some people. No fault divorces run against the traditional narrative that ending a marriage is an opportunity to ‘get back’ at a spouse, and so it may not be welcomed wholeheartedly by everyone.
The editorial unit