No Fault Divorce: The Pros And Cons

No Fault Divorce: The Pros And Cons
No Fault Divorce: The Pros And Cons

Starting in April 2022, couples in England and Wales gained access to a new ‘no fault’ divorce process, introduced by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. This marks a substantial shift in the divorce landscape, necessitating that couples considering divorce comprehend the implications, benefits, and potential drawbacks of these reforms.

What is a no-fault divorce?

The implementation of no-fault divorce in 2022 marked a significant provision of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. Under this provision, couples are no longer required to attribute blame for the dissolution of their relationship when filing for divorce.

In the past, divorce applications had to specify one of five accepted reasons for the marriage breakdown.

These included:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation for at least 2 years (with both party’s consent)
  • Separation for at least 5 years

The first three reasons required one spouse to accept fault for the marriage ending, while the final two required years of separation before applying for divorce. Under the new rules, divorce applications no longer need to specify a reason for the marriage ending. Instead, the application must include a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown, indicating that the marriage is over.

Additionally, the Act introduced other reforms, such as removing the ability for a spouse to contest a divorce initiated by their partner in nearly all cases. It also allows couples to apply for divorce jointly, known as a joint application.

What are the advantages of a no-fault divorce?

When thinking about no-fault divorce pros and cons in the UK, there are many benefits to consider, including:

  • Removing the potential for unnecessary conflict: As neither person needs to “take the blame” for the end of the relationship, there is less chance of dispute over who is to blame. Fault and blame are known to cause conflict and can then make all parts of the divorce process harder. The removal of blame and, thus, a reduction in conflict is one of the key benefits of no-fault divorce.
  • Allowing couples to apply for divorce together can make the process more harmonious, rather than something one spouse is taking the lead on.
  • The divorce cannot be contested in almost all circumstances. If one spouse does not want the divorce to happen, they can no longer prevent it (except in very limited circumstances that won’t apply to most divorces). This means people cannot be trapped in a marriage they wish to leave, as has sometimes happened.
  • Making the whole divorce process easier: Removing the potential for unnecessary conflict can make it easier for couples to work together on issues such as the division of finances and arrangements for children. This not only reduces the stress involved but can also minimise the likelihood of long and costly court proceedings.
  • Making it easier for divorcing couples to maintain a positive relationship: This is particularly important where they have children they will need to co-parent.

What are the disadvantages of a no-fault divorce?

While we believe the new no-fault divorce laws are positive overall, there are some concerns that people might consider to be problems with no-fault divorce, such as:

  • The process now takes a minimum of 6 months. Before, it was theoretically possible to process a divorce application and legally end a marriage in a shorter amount of time. However, it is worth noting that the division of finances and arrangements for children typically takes longer than this, so few divorces were really “completed” in under 6 months, even before the reforms.
  • Divorce is “too easy” now. Some people may feel that the no-fault divorce process is too simple, making it easier for couples to end their marriage and less likely to work at salvaging their relationship. This is one of the reasons for the introduction of a 20-week waiting period between the application and the issuing of the Conditional Order. Time will tell whether there is an increase in divorce rates now that the new rules are in place, but our experience as divorce lawyers suggests more harm was caused by the barriers to divorce that existed under old law than might be caused by the more straight-forward process.
  • Neither person has to take responsibility for the end of the relationship. This is a double-edged sword. While taking away the need to assign blame removes a lot of potential for conflict, in some cases, people want their spouse to accept responsibility for the end of the marriage. While on the surface, one party blaming the other for adultery or unreasonably bad behaviour might have felt like a ‘win’ in legal terms, it made no difference to the outcome of the divorce and, in our experience, rarely led to a true sense of satisfaction.

Do you need a lawyer for a no-fault divorce?

Although the legal process for applying for divorce has changed with the introduction of the no-fault divorce system, it remains essential to seek good legal advice. It is highly recommended that separating couples consult with an experienced divorce lawyer for assistance with matters such as:

  • How finances should be divided: for example, what will happen to the family home, pensions and other savings and investments, as well as whether maintenance payments will be needed?
  • Arrangements for children: So you understand your rights and the different options for resolving these matters.
  • Preparing legal documents, such as the consent order, to make any financial agreement between the parties legally binding.
  • Negotiating the terms of your separation, including the division of finances and arrangements for children. This might involve private negotiation with your lawyer beside you or advice on agreeing terms directly with your spouse via mediation.
  • Advice and representation for court proceedings: If you cannot reach an agreement amicably, your solicitor will advise on court proceedings and represent you if required.

Contact Us

Divorce can present challenges, but with the appropriate legal support, the process can be significantly simplified.

At DLS Solicitors, our skilled divorce lawyers provide specialised legal advice on the pros and cons of no-fault divorce in the UK. We also offer comprehensive guidance on the implications of divorce, covering financial considerations and matters involving children.

Avatar of DLS Solicitors by DLS Solicitors
24th April 2024
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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