No Fault Divorce – What is all the fuss about?

Everyone knows about ‘divorce’, from the allegedly “quickie” divorce to the “divorce battles” and now a new divorce – “No Fault” But what does this all mean?  Is this really a new concept?

Until 1857, divorce was largely available to men and the rich as divorce could only be granted by an Act of Parliament. In 1857, the Matrimonial Causes Act allowed women to divorce on the grounds of adultery but they also had to prove their husband had been unfaithful and additional faults including cruelty, rape and incest.   And here the saga began…

The element of blame, “fault” has remained a requirement in English Law when initiating divorce proceedings which have been under constant review for the past 8 decades!

Currently, one spouse is required to place blame as to the other spouse’s conduct. They can choose from one of three reasons to support their petition for divorce, being adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour. If none of these three facts apply, the parties must prove that they have lived apart for two years (only if agreed) or five years before the marriage can be dissolved.

It has been widely accepted amongst family law professionals that there should be a change to divorce law -starting the family separation mudslinging about whose ‘fault’ it is. The blame element sets a difficult scene when really families should be concentrating on arrangements for the children and or the family money.

The most recent case to influence momentum for “No Fault Divorce” is the case of Owens v Owens (2018). Mrs Owens attempted to divorce her husband citing his unreasonable behaviour, but her divorce was dismissed despite her including 27 examples of Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour and her also having committed adultery.  Mr Owens didn’t consent to the divorce and defended the allegations against him and a

Judge determined Mrs Owens’ reasons for divorce “…were at best flimsy” and they were “significantly exaggerated”.   The parties had to remain married until they had separated for 5 years, which seems unimaginable in our current age.

After a prolonged anticipated wait, the time has finally arrived. No fault Divorce, or to give its full title “The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020” will bring major change to divorce law in England and Wales on 6 April 2022.

What is No Fault Divorce?

The phrase “No Fault Divorce” is the name that has been given to the new divorce regime.

From 6 April 2022, when No Fault Divorce become effective, a person wanting to divorce their spouse will no longer have to justify their reason for doing so, simply stating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Undoubtedly there will be cases where conflict between separating parties will remain however it is hoped that a more constructive approach will be adopted to cases by removing the “blame game”.

Key changes to divorce law

The key changes to the law are as follows:

  1. Removal of the need to establish a fact to prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down
  2. The introduction of joint applications where couples can apply together
  3. Modernised terminology:
  4. “Decree Nisi” will become “Conditional Order”
  5. “Decree Absolute” will become “Final Order”
  6. “Petitioner” will become “Applicant” (i.e. the person submitting the application)
  7. A respondent to a sole application is now only able to dispute an application because –
    • -They dispute the jurisdiction of the court in England and Wales
    • -They dispute the validity of the marriage or civil partnership
    • -The marriage or civil partnership has already been legally ended
  8. The introduction of a period of reflection which is a minimum 20 week period between the date the court issues proceedings and when the applicant may apply for a conditional order

Throughout the duration of the divorce process, parties may still need to make separate arrangements as to their finances or child arrangements.

If you require advice regarding the divorce process, the division of your assets or child arrangements, then please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0113 2450 852 (Leeds), 01423 530103 (Harrogate) or 01977 644864 (Upton).

We offer a free 30-minute initial consultation with no obligation. Our family team are members of Resolution, an organisation of family law professionals who are committed to adopting a constructive and non-confrontational approach to family law matters.

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