No Fault Divorce will bring an end to the ‘Blame Game’

December 21, 2020

Following many years of campaigning, No-Fault Divorce is now very close to becoming a reality.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal Assent in June 2020 and is expected to come into effect by Autumn 2021. The delay is a necessity to ensure that all required changes to the court, online and paper processes can be carefully implemented.

The need for change

Under existing Divorce Law, one spouse has to make accusations against the other and prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage by one of five permissible ways which are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation of two years if both parties agree
  • Separation of five years

This outdated requirement to apportion blame at a time when feelings are already on a knife-edge often leads to acrimony. Even when both parties wish to divorce, the needless presentation of allegations by one party against the other can introduce tension and distract attention from the more important matters to be resolved – such as the living arrangements of children, splitting of assets, future finances etc.

Thanks to the new Bill, it will now only require at least one spouse to provide a legal statement to say that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. That statement will be considered as conclusive evidence and cannot be contested.

Allowing joint application

Another much-welcomed change to the current process is the opportunity to make a joint application. This too is a step which encourages a more mutual approach to the divorce and avoids the adversarial nature of the unnecessary ‘blame game’.

 Bringing the language up to date

Within the review, the Parliamentarians also took the opportunity to modernise and simplify some of the jargon previously used. Subsequently, the following key legal terms will be changed:

  • The “petitioner” will now be the “applicant”
  • The “decree nisi” will now be called a “conditional order”
  • The “decree absolute” will be called a “final order”

By no means just a ‘quickie divorce’

The new Bill in no way introduces the possibility of hasty, ill-considered divorce proceedings.

In fact, the law lays down a minimum allowable period of 20 weeks between the initial application and the conditional order, and another six weeks between the conditional and final orders.

This means that even the smoothest divorce will take at least six months to be finalised, allowing ample opportunity for couples to agree on practical arrangements for the future and reduce the negative effect on any children involved.

If you would like to know more about these changes (which also affect the dissolution of civil partnerships), then get in touch with our experienced team or visit

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.

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