Our Guide to Understanding No-Fault Divorce

Posted on: 10 mins read
Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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In April 2022, No-Fault Divorce was introduced to help make sure that civil partners and married couples could separate or divorce amicably.

Previously, for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution to take place, there had to be some reason or fault on at least one side of the divorce or dissolution if the couple had been separated for less than 2 years. Whether this was abuse, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, there used to be a set number of reasons you had to give to justify wanting to divorce or separate from your partner legally.

However, No-Fault Divorce was then introduced. In this type of divorce, no reason has to be given. This causes less arguments between ex-couples, as it means that neither of them are blamed, as such, for the divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

In this article, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at No-Fault Divorce and how the number of divorce applications increased when this became available.

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What is a No-Fault Divorce?

The divorce and civil partnership dissolution processes can be really emotionally difficult to navigate. They can bring up tricky feelings about the end of a relationship, and they can be tough to deal with if the split has been a messy one.

That’s why, during divorce proceedings, the focus should not only be on making sure the financial split it right, but also be on making sure that things go as smoothly as possible, and that conflict is avoided as much as possible. This is because conflict can really affect people’s logic and decision-making abilities, clouding judgement and generally causing emotional stress, which is never ideal.

This is why No-Fault Divorces are so beneficial. Now that the need to blame someone or something for the breakdown of relationship is gone, conflict is far less likely to happen. This way, divorce processes are now a lot easier, from an emotional side of things.

Who Can Get a No-Fault Divorce? 

Anyone can apply to get a No-Fault Divorce, as long as they are married or in a civil partnership.

In fact, as we’ve already touched on before, the introduction of No-Fault Divorce meant that more people were applying for divorces. This is because No-Fault Divorce is a much less intimidating idea than having to figure out a reason to divorce, which usually involves you blaming your partner for something.

This way, getting a No-Fault Divorce can be a lot more emotionally easy.

What were the Five Grounds of Divorce Prior To No-Fault Divorce?

Before No-Fault Divorce, there used to be grounds of divorce. One or more of these had to be met and proven to make sure that the divorce could happen.

The five grounds of divorce were as follows:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years of separation with consent
  5. Five years of separation without consent

As we can see, with three of these grounds, you’d have to be blaming your soon to be ex-spouse for something, and this can cause some serious and unnecessary arguments during divorce proceedings.

No-Fault Divorce: What Were the Key Changes?

There are a few key differences between the previous  divorce process and a No-Fault Divorce. These are as follows:

  • The reasons for divorce: As we’ve already explained, couples who are divorcing or dissolving their civil partnership won’t need to prove one of the five grounds for divorce. Instead, the marriage just has to have “irretrievably broken down”, and this is enough.
  • The application for divorce: If they both agree that the marriage has broken down, soon to be ex-couples are able to apply for a divorce together, which wasn’t the case with the previous divorce process. Or, if one person applies for a divorce and the other doesn’t, the person applying will be known as the “applicant”, and their soon to be ex-spouse will be known as the “respondent”. Previously they were known as the Petitioner and the Respondent.
  • No option to defend, but option to dispute: Previously, one of the parties was able to defend the divorce, but this isn’t the case anymore. But, there is still the option to dispute the divorce, if one of the parties wants to.
  • The final orders: Before, there was a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute. With No-Fault Divorce, these have been replaced by a Conditional Order and a Final Order.
  • The timeline of the process: There is now a new timeline when you’re getting a No-Fault Divorce. The application for a No-Fault Divorce will now take . Furthermore the applicant(s) are not able to apply for the conditional order until 20 weeks have passed since the date the No-Fault Divorce application went submitted to the court. Previously there was no time limit before applying for the Decree Nisi. It remains that you have to wait until 6 weeks and 1 day have passed after the conditional order before applying for the final order (the same timeline applied between the Decree Nisi and the application for the Decree Absolute).

So, there are clearly a few differences between the previous divorce process and No-Fault Divorce, which are important to know going forward.

Why the Change?

There are a few reasons as to why these changes have taken place when it comes to divorce and civil partnership dissolution proceedings and law.

Firstly, many people had to be separated for two years before getting divorced, especially if they couldn’t decide on another reason under the five grounds of divorce.

Secondly, when people got a divorce under the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, this was a complex and confusing process for everyone involved which often caused acrimony.

Now, though, there doesn’t have to be a reason for divorce when it comes to No-Fault Divorce, meaning no one is blamed. As long as it is agreed that the marriage is completely broken and can’t be resolved, the No-Fault Divorce can go ahead.

This helps make sure conflict is less likely to happen, and it also makes divorces easier to get overall, helping relieve some of the stress and difficult emotions associated with divorce and civil partnership dissolution.

How Does a No-Fault Divorce Work?

At the end of the day, the basic fact of No-Fault Divorce is as the name suggests – there is no fault required to apply for the divorce. Sometimes, a marriage breaks down without there being any grounds for divorce like the ones you had to use before this type of divorce was introduced.

With No-Fault Divorce, as long as it’s evident/agreed that the marriage has broken down completely and can’t possibly be saved, the divorce proceedings can begin. Neither party is able to defend themselves, but there is an option to dispute the divorce if needed.

To start the divorce process and application is made online. Our Divorce Solicitors can help you with this process if you would like.

How Long Will A No-Fault Divorce Take?

Overall, the process of getting a No-Fault Divorce will take at least 26 weeks. This is the general rule for this type of divorce, for a number of different reasons.

As with the previous divorce proceedings, the process of getting a No-Fault Divorce depends on the particular circumstances of each party and of the case in general, which can affect how smoothly things go, and how quickly the process takes. Overall, though, No-Fault Divorces tend to be smoother and easier than the previous divorce process.

Separating Together

You might be looking for an amicable way of dividing your matrimonial finances. If this is the case, it’s worth taking a look at Simpson Millar’s separating together package and seeing if this might be a better option for you and your soon to be ex-spouse.

Separating together is when you and your soon to be ex-spouse use the same Solicitor. This can help you save both time and money, as there isn’t the extra factor of Solicitors talking to each other and waiting to hear back and so on.

Generally, there’s something of an eligibility criteria, so you can make sure that Separating Together is the right option for you going forward. We need to make sure that you’re both committed to an amicable and conflict-free divorce, as this has to be the case if you want to Separate Together.

If we decide that this is the best route for you, we will begin  the Separating Together process with you. This way, we’ll help you save the time, money and stress that some people face by using different Solicitors.

At Simpson Millar, we can help talk you through whether this is the right way to go in your particular case.

Will No-Fault Divorce Affect my Financial Settlement?

You might be confused about what will happen with your financial settlement if you get a No-Fault Divorce.

When you’re getting a No-Fault Divorce, it’s important to know that your financial settlement won’t be affected by this. That’s because the grounds for the divorce don’t affect your financial settlement at all. This was also the case under the previous divorce process.

If you’re still worried about how getting a No-Fault Divorce will affect things and how it’s different to the previous  divorce process, we can provide expert and easy to understand legal advice. You shouldn’t have to feel confused and in the dark about what’s going on legally in terms of your divorce, which is why we’re here to answer your questions throughout the divorce process.

If Blame Doesn’t Change Financial Outcomes, Why Does it Need to be There?

It’s important to realise that No-Fault Divorce isn’t easier than the previous divorce process from a legal standpoint. The process is similar, despite the fact that there is no need to prove that one of the parties is at fault.

But, No-Fault Divorce does make things a lot more emotionally easy. It means there doesn’t have to be lots of blaming and arguments when a couple divorces or dissolves their civil partnership, which means the whole process doesn’t have to be so stressful anymore.

While there has been an increase in the number of divorce cases since the introduction of No-Fault Divorce, it is likely that this is because people don’t have to be separated for 2 years before divorcing without blame or a reason anymore.

What is the Cost of a No-Fault Divorce?

At the time of writing, the court fee for applying for a No-Fault Divorce is £593. But, it’s important to realise that there may be other costs involved in getting this kind of divorce, such as legal representation.

The overall cost of getting a No-Fault Divorce very much depends on your case and circumstances. There are things that can add to this cost, such as having to the contact arrangements for the child or children you share. However, this would be dealt with entirely separately. In addition, there are things you can do to keep the costs down.

For example, if you and your soon to be ex-spouse are committed to having a conflict-free and amicable divorce, you could look at Separating Together, which we’ve explained above. Using the same Solicitor in this way could really help save money and cut the costs when it comes to divorcing, but you need to really want to split amicably.

Can a No-Fault Divorce Be Contested?

It’s important to realise that, because there is no blame or accusations in a No-Fault Divorce, you can’t defend yourself, because there is essentially nothing to defend yourself against. In addition, you can’t contest a No-Fault Divorce.

But, there are situations in which a court can investigate the divorce further, but this is very rare, mostly because it takes a lot of effort and resources to do this, so the criteria for further investigation is incredibly specific. There have been cases of this happening, but they are few and far between.

How Can Simpson Millar Help with No-Fault Divorce?

So, as we’ve seen, No-Fault Divorce makes the whole process of getting divorced or dissolving a Civil Partnership far less stressful for everyone involved. Because you don’t have to blame your soon to be ex-spouse or give a reason for needing to divorce, with No-Fault Divorces, there is a lot less conflict and arguments caused by this part of the process.

But, divorce proceedings still aren’t easy, especially if you don’t fully understand the legal side of what’s going on. These things can be complex and confusing.

If you get in touch with our Divorce Law Solicitors, we can help you get to grips with what’s happening with your case, what your options are and how to go about everything. We can shine a light on the legal side of your No-Fault Divorce, to help you better understand it all.

Our friendly and approachable team understand that these things can still be emotionally trying and stressful even when you’re going through a No-Fault Divorce. That’s why we always treat divorce and Civil Partnership dissolution cases with the sensitivity we believe they deserve.

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

References:

UK Government. (n.d.). Blame game ends as no-fault divorce comes into force. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/blame-game-ends-as-no-fault-divorce-comes-into-force

The Law Society. (n.d.). No-fault divorce. Retrieved from https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/family-and-children/no-fault-divorce

Citizens Advice Scotland. (n.d.). Getting divorced. Retrieved from https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/family/relationship-problems-s/getting-divorced-s/

The Law Society. (n.d.). Spike in no-fault divorce applications. Retrieved from https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/contact-or-visit-us/press-office/press-releases/spike-in-no-fault-divorce-applications

UK Government. (n.d.). File for divorce. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/divorce/file-for-divorce

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