Separating couples in England and Wales will soon be able end their relationship without having to blame one another, thanks to the introduction of no-fault divorce.
The changes are part of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill which is due to be become law in Autumn 2021 after passing through the House of Commons. The Bill is being implemented to help reform the divorce process, encouraging a constructive approach to separation which better reflects the reasons couples may choose to end their relationship.
Why is no-fault divorce being introduced?
Under current law in England and Wales, separating couples intending to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution can only do so on the basis that their relationship has irretrievably broken down.
For this to be the case, a couple has to rely on one or more of the following reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Adultery (not available for civil partnership dissolution)
- Desertion for at least 2 years out of the last 2.5 years
- Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of both spouses
- Separation for at least 5 years whether both spouses consent or not
This can present an issue if one party is not willing to accept blame for the failure of the marriage or civil partnership, refuses to participate in divorce proceedings or chooses to defend the divorce in court.
How will no-fault divorce work?
There are a number of proposals included in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. These include:
- Removing the requirement to rely on one more reasons for ‘irretrievable breakdown’
- Updating the language surrounding divorce:
- ‘Decree Nisi’ will become a ‘Conditional Order’
- ‘Decree Absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’
- The ‘Petitioner’ will become the ‘applicant’
- Introducing joint applications. This allows couples to agree that the relationship has irretrievably broken down
- Removing the ability to contest a divorce
- Introducing a minimum of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to when the Conditional Order can be made
- Maintaining the 6-week period between the Conditional Order and Final Order being made
What will no-fault divorce mean for separating couples?
There are a number of potential benefits for separating couples:
Removal of the ‘blame game’
It’s often the case that there is no animosity between separating couples and the need for one party to take the blame isn’t always suitable. No-fault divorce will remove the blame game and allow couples to end their relationship on amicable terms.
No contested divorce
It will not be possible for someone to contest a divorce, which means people won’t be trapped in a marriage they wish to leave.
Time to make separate arrangements
The divorce process will be made more straightforward, removing sources of delay and providing couples the opportunity to focus their attention on making arrangements for finances, children and maintenance payments.
Will couples still need a solicitor for a no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce will certainly make the divorce process much more straightforward, but separating couples will still need the assistance of an experienced solicitor to ensure that all of the necessary documents are completed accurately and promptly.
Couples will still have to go through the process of separating their finances and making arrangements for children, so seeking legal advice will help to get a fair outcome while minimising the potential for conflict.
At Frettens, our experienced divorce solicitors are able to provide the compassionate, practical support you need if you are going through divorce or civil partnership dissolution proceedings.
We can support you with the legal process of ending your relationship, as well as matters involving your finances and children, using methods of collaborative law wherever possible.