No Fault Divorce

by Northern Life


In 2019, the Government announced the laws governing Divorce would be reviewed and overhauled, enabling couples to divorce without the need to blame one party for the relationship breakdown. The resultant bill, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 passed and is set to be implemented as of 6th April 2022. 

What Are The Current Rules On Divorce? 

Currently, divorce is only permissible in England and Wales where one of the following criteria can be demonstrated: – 

  • An irretrievable breakdown of the relationship – attributable to either adultery or so-called ‘unreasonable behaviour’ 
  • Two years separation where both parties agree 
  • Desertion – where one partner has deserted the other for two years without explanation 
  • Five years separation – Divorce can only currently proceed inside two years of separation where evidence of adultery or unreasonable behaviour is presented to the court and proven to be the case. 

What Is Changing? 

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 changes all this, introducing sweeping reforms aimed at making divorce compatible with modern day reality. 

Once implemented, a divorce can be sought on the sole ground that the marriage has broken down, removing the necessity to attribute blame to one or other party. 

As there is to be no requirement to specify wider reasons for the divorce, the ability to contest a divorce will also largely be removed. 

Couples will also be able to make a joint application for divorce, rather than one side having to instigate proceedings against the other. 

What If We Change Our Minds? 

Whilst the changes are intended to make the divorce process more efficient and accessible, and to remove the needless requirement to attribute blame, it is not the intention to make divorce something that can be completed on a whim, without couples having time to address their issues and work on resolving these. 

As such, the Act includes a minimum timeframe of 20 weeks from the point of an application being made and the divorce being finalised. 

Why Did This Not Happen Sooner? 

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 attained Royal Assent on 25th June 2020, and since then the Government have been working to determine the significant changes required to ensure procedures and facilities are in place to facilitate the new rules. The magnitude of the changes involved has meant this process has taken time to put in place, but implementation is set for 6th April 2022. 

What Does This Mean For Me? 

If you are in a marriage that has irretrievably broken down, it is about to become much easier for you to bring it to an end and move on. The changes should also reduce to a degree the conflict or ill feeling that often clouds such proceedings as there is no requirement to ascertain an element of blame on one side or the other should you choose to separate. 

If you are dealing with the breakdown of a relationship and considering divorce, you should seek the advice of a solicitor. A good solicitor will not only able to handle the divorce itself for you, but also assist in resolving issues around arrangements for children as well as the division of marital assets.

Northern Life Mar/Apr 2022