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No-Fault Divorce is Nearly Here – What Does This Mean for You?

March 2022

On 6th April 2022 the long-awaited no-fault divorce will be introduced in England and Wales under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. This reform is widely welcomed by family law professionals and it seeks to put an end to the divorce ‘blame game’.

Why is this reform needed?

Under the current law, one party will be the petitioner, petitioning for a divorce from their spouse. The petitioner has to rely on one of five ‘facts’ to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. These facts are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of both parties
  • Separation for at least 5 years if there is not consent of both parties
  • Desertion for at least 2 years

This means that even in cases where couples are amicable and have jointly decided to end their marriage, unless they are willing to wait at least 2 years, one party is required to attribute blame to the other which can spark unnecessary conflict between couples.

Under the new laws, an individual or a couple will be able to file for a divorce on the basis that their marriage has irretrievably broken down without having to attribute fault or blame to one party.

Please refer to our previous article What to Expect from the New “No-Fault” Divorce System for further information on the background to this reform.

What does this mean for me?

If you are considering divorcing your spouse there are several deadlines you need to be aware of.

The deadline for the paper and digital (i.e. the online divorce portal) applications is 31 March 2022 at 4pm. If a paper application is received after this date there is a risk it will be rejected and returned to you and you will need to apply once the new law comes into effect. Any applications on the portal after this date will not be accepted until 6 April 2022.

If you consider the application to be urgently issued between 31 March – 6 April 2022, please contact us immediately and we will undertake an assessment to confirm whether the court will accept receipt of the urgent application.

The significant changes

  1. Couples will be able to make a joint application for divorce, instead of one party having to initiate proceedings against the other. An individual will still be able to submit a sole application in circumstances where their partner is not consenting to the application.
  2. The divorce petition will be the divorce application.
  3. The petitioner will become the applicant
  4. No ‘facts’ have to be proven, or blame attributed, in order to get divorced. All that will be required is for at least one spouse to provide a legal statement confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  5. Crucially the language of the divorce process will change. At present there is a two-stage divorce process 1. When the court is satisfied that the grounds of divorce have been proven (decree nisi) and 2. Following this you can apply for the final divorce after six weeks (decree absolute). The new process changes this. The ‘Decree Nisi’ will become the ‘Conditional Order’ and the ‘Decree Absolute’ will become the ‘Final Order’.
  6. The applicant has to serve the divorce papers 28 days after the date of the issue of the divorce application. Service is now expected to occur by email
  7. Divorce applications can now be processed within 26 weeks. This is broken down into
  8. After 20 weeks you can apply for the conditional order
  9. Once granted, there is a 6-week minimum period between the Conditional Order and a Final Order being granted (as exists in the current law).
  10. It will not be possible to defend proceedings on the basis of the grounds relied upon, however there is a possibility to dispute proceedings

It is important to note that this reform is updating the requirements and procedure for a divorce, but it will not have any effect on financial settlements or child arrangements on divorce.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in the above article, please call us on +44 (0)20 7936 8888 or email us at