No fault divorce came into effect from 6th April 2022, bringing about the biggest change to UK divorce law since the 1970s.

This change to UK divorce law makes a significant difference to the lives of couples looking to get divorced. Before the change came into effect, couples had to prove that their marriage had broken down irretrievably to be able to get divorced.

The introduction of the no fault reasoning for divorce means couples no longer need to apportion blame to get divorced.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what no fault divorce is, what it means for couples looking to get divorced in the UK, and other recent changes to the UK divorce laws.

What is no fault divorce?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into effect from the 6th April 2022. As part of the introduction of this new law, couples would be able to apply for a divorce without assigning blame. This change in divorce law introduces the “no fault” reasoning for divorce.

Before the introduction of no fault divorce, someone applying for divorce had to show their marriage had broken down irretrievably by stating one of the following five grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation with consent
  • 5 years separation where the other party did not consent

As well as stating their grounds for divorce, the individual also had to provide evidence to back up their application for divorce.

Since 6th April 2022, however, it is now no longer necessary to apportion blame to obtain a divorce. The person, or persons, applying for a divorce can state irretrievable breakdown without needing to provide evidence.

Why the no fault divorce ruling came into effect?

As we all know, sometimes marriages just don’t work out. The happily-ever-after fairy tale doesn’t exist for everyone and, often times, there isn’t anyone to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. As a result, the most common way to apply for a divorce prior to April 2022 was to cite “unreasonable behaviour”.

Citing unreasonable behaviour was the closest someone could get to not apportioning blame when obtaining a divorce. Yet, it still required the individual to state the behaviour they find unreasonable — something that still places blame on the other party and can create rifts during the relationship when trying to find an amicable resolution.

Removing the need to provide grounds for divorce minimises confrontation and hostility between couples separating. It removes the apportioning of blame and supports the ability for couples to separate amicably. This is a significant change in history that can ensure families, especially children, are protected from prolonged damage during the divorce process.


What it means for couples looking to get divorced

The introduction of no fault divorce catapults the UK divorce process into modern times by removing the need to apportion blame to one spouse when applying for divorce.

This new change to UK divorce laws means someone can apply for a divorce without having to state a specific reason for divorce. The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act also prevents a spouse from contesting a divorce application if they do not have conclusive evidence to challenge the divorce. This is a notable change that could prevent domestic abusers from contesting divorce as a means of exercising coercive control over their spouse.

It’s worth noting that no fault divorce isn’t a new phenomenon. It has been happening in many countries around the world from Sweden (introduced in 1973) to the USA (introduced in 2010), and many others. We don’t believe this change will impact divorce rates. Rather, it will help improve the experience of divorce for all involved by removing blame.

Other changes to UK divorce law in 2022

The no fault divorce law isn’t the only change that came about with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

As well as removing the need to apportion blame — no fault divorce — the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act also applies a limit on the ability for the other party to challenge a divorce application. The new divorce law also brings changes to the legal language used when discussing divorce.

Under the new UK divorce law, a divorce application will proceed undisputed unless less are any queries over the validity of the marriage or jurisdiction. If the other party wants to contest the divorce they would need to provide appropriate evidence before this is accepted. If the other party does not contest the divorce, it will proceed without disruption.

The legal language used in relation to divorce is also changing. The new and old terminology is as follows:

  • Divorce petition = Divorce application
  • Petitioner = Applicant
  • Decree nisi = Conditional order
  • Decree absolute = Final order
  • Defended = Disputed

The time period between issuing a divorce application and applying for a conditional order (previously known as a decree nisi) has increased to 20 weeks.

Before the new changes came into effect, the wait time before receiving a decree nisi was approximately between 6 – 8 weeks after issuing the divorce petition (now known as the divorce application). The wait time has increased to 20 weeks to introduce a period of reflection. This period of reflection allows the applicant to consider their decision and presents an opportunity to withdraw if they wish. You can still issue financial and Children Act proceedings during this waiting period.

We’re here to help you through the UK divorce process

The divorce process can be difficult to navigate, but you don’t have to do it alone. At TEN Legal, we’re here to help you through the UK divorce process.

If you would like impartial, expert advice regarding no fault divorce or the new UK law changes, please get in touch with our friendly team. We will help you navigate the divorce process to ensure the best possible outcome.