What is a “no-fault” divorce?

As of 6th April 2022, couples will be able to apply for divorce imminently on the understanding that the marriage has broken down irretrievably without the pressure of having to state the reasons for the breakdown.

What are the changes in the law surrounding no-fault divorce?

Many legal professionals believe that UK divorce law is long overdue for reform and simply does not seem to meet the needs of the people relying on it. As such, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 outlines that married couples will not need to wait two years to be able to go their separate ways on a no-fault basis.  

How will no-fault divorce benefit couples?

Of course divorce is not a pleasant process for anyone involved, however, the new law reform has allowed it to be a little more bearable in certain situations.  

The exclusion of fault-finding in divorce proceedings under the new legislation is there to encourage couples to embrace an amicable settlement regardless of who is at fault. It will avoid straining an already strained relationship by having to prove one of the five reasons for the relationship breaking down: adultery, desertion, unreasonable behaviour, five years of separation without consent, or two years of separation with consent. 

Additionally, it would make a potentially hard and emotional process a little easier and allow those who need it, a swift exit from a difficult relationship. Once a couple has decided that they intend to separate, a no-fault divorce allows them to channel their energies into more productive tasks such as child custody and splitting assets, rather than going through a potential legal battle just to be able to cut ties. 

In theory, no-fault divorce has the opportunity of giving partners more of a clean break and it may reduce conflict in cases where no one has actually done anything wrong, the pair have simply drifted apart. 

On the other hand, in cases where one person wants a divorce and the other person doesn’t, it stops the other from contesting the divorce which in some cases has led to domestic violence and coercive control

Furthermore, while divorce can be a financially difficult experience, no-fault divorce would invariably reduce the cost incurred by cross petitions and by cutting administration fees.

What is the impact of the new divorce reform law?

Lord Keen acknowledges that the irreparable damage will already have been done before an application even reaches the court. He states that “the Government believes that the law should deal with that reality in a way that not only protects society’s interests in marriage but avoids making the legal process of divorce or civil partnership dissolution unnecessarily antagonistic.”

Being able to simply walk away from a failed relationship without holding on to the stress and pain caused by the separation process is a positive step in the right direction for those who go through a divorce. This will not only impact the couples but everyone else who is involved such as the wider family members and children. 
The ability to not have to apportion blame or wait two years to have to do so will likely cause less conflict and allow everyone to be able to move on quicker than they were able to before. This in itself will probably improve the quality of life of those involved and marriages in general.

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