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How long does a no-fault divorce take?

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How long does a no-fault divorce take?

The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 introduced no-fault divorce.

Family Partner Simon Immins takes a look at the no-fault divorce process and discusses how long it takes to complete.

What is no fault divorce?

No-fault divorce is a divorce which, unlike ‘fault based’ divorce, doesn’t require evidence of wrongdoing by either party.

We defined no-fault divorce in more detail in our dedicated article, which can be read here.

What was the issue with fault-based divorce?

Since the 1973 Matrimonial Act set out how people in England and Wales could divorce there had only ever been one ground for divorce and that was that the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

The difficulty was that if the parties hadn’t been living apart for at least two years then before that two year period for one party to issue the Divorce they would have to show to the court that a fault of the other lead to the irretrievable breakdown.

Under the new law there is still only the one ground but importantly the party requesting the divorce is certifying that they believe the marriage has broken down. It is not the Courts role to find that it has.

When did no-fault divorce become law UK?

In the UK, no-fault divorce became law on 6th April 2022.

The deadline for fault-based divorces being issued was 31st March for the previous fact based divorces. There was a brief period of 5 days when no petitions were issued.

Are the parties involved still called the same?

No there are changes to the titles of various aspects of the process including the name of the person taking the proceedings these are:

  • The Petitioner will now be known as the Applicant
  • A Divorce Petition will now be known as an Application
  • Decree Nisi will now be known as a Conditional Order
  • Decree Absolute will now be known as a Final Order

Learn more about the changes in terminology here.

How long does a no-fault divorce take?

A no-fault divorce, from application to finalisation, should take roughly 6-7 months to complete.

Below we’ve provided a further breakdown of the timings involved in a no-fault divorce…

The no-fault divorce process: a breakdown of timings

Day 1

The divorce/dissolution application is filled in online.

After 28 days

After 28 days, from the date of issue of the application, the court will serve the respondent or both parties (if this is a joint application) via email. 

If the applicant wants to deal with service, it is anticipated that service should be undertaken within 28 days from the date of issue of the application.

Read about joint applications for divorce here.

14 days after service

After 14 days from the date of service of the application time to file acknowledgement of service, or

35 days after service

From date of service time to file answer.

20 weeks from the date of issue of the application

Provided the acknowledgement of service was served within 18 weeks from the date of issue, the applicant can apply for the conditional order. 

If the acknowledgement of service was served later than 18 weeks from the date of issue of the application, the time to apply is no earlier than 14 days after the acknowledgement of service should have been filed.

6 weeks

Six weeks after the date of the conditional order, both parties or one party can apply for the divorce order. 

If the application is made by one party that party must give 14 days' notice of their intention to apply.

Can the applicant claim costs for divorce?

Ordinarily, costs orders that would have been pursued if the petitioner issued on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery are no longer relevant. 

Strangely, claiming costs under the new procedure does not appear to be addressed. 

It certainly would be an unusual case for cost orders to be pursued rather than agreed under the no fault regime.

Is a no-fault divorce quicker than a fault-based divorce?

No, a no-fault divorce should take about the same time as a ‘fault-based’ divorce under current law.

However, no-fault divorce will likely be much smoother as there is no blame on either party and proceedings should therefore be non-confrontational.

Our thoughts on no-fault divorce

Family Partner Simon Immins says: “Finally! An end to the outdated fault-based divorce and the introduction of no-fault divorce!

Prior to this new law, I used to have to ask my client who wanted to claim the breakdown was the fault of the other.

As you can imagine, this often caused even more difficulty between the couple when often they had jointly come to the conclusion that the marriage was at an end.”

We hope that you were able to get a better understanding of the timings involved with the new law from this article.

If you do need further advice, please feel free to get in touch with our team below.

No-fault divorce solicitors

At Frettens, our team of bright and approachable family solicitors specialise in offering pragmatic legal advice in plain English.

We can assist you in your divorce, financial order or child arrangements order.

We offer a free initial chat for all new clients. Simply call us on 01202 499255 or fill out the form at the top of this page to get in touch.

The content of this article, blog or video is not intended as specific legal advice. For tailored assistance, please contact a member of our team.