No-fault divorce law in the UK – Frequently Asked Questions

No-fault divorce - Frequently Asked Questions

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We are getting lots of calls and emails from people asking about the new no-fault divorce law, so this week I thought it might be helpful to share the most frequently asked questions about the new no-fault divorce.

When does the new law come into effect?

The new no-fault divorce law comes into effect at 12.01 am on the 6th of April 2022.

What is the difference between the new law and the current law?

Couple’s don’t have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage

A no-fault divorce is a divorce that doesn’t require either party to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage.

Under the current system, a divorce application must claim one of the following:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years of separation with consent
  • Five years of separation without consent

A couple divorcing under the new no-fault law will no longer need to rely on one of the five facts. Under the new law, couples will be able to get divorced solely on the basis that their marriage has broken down.

This is great news for couples who don’t want to ‘blame’ their partner or in delicate situations where one party refuses to accept the ciscumstances.

The new no-fault divorce laws will allow couples to apply for divorce jointly. 

Under current laws, one spouse issues divorce proceedings against the other. The person who starts the divorce is called the petitioner, and the other person is called the respondent. Under the no-fault divorce system, both people can make a joint application.

It will be no longer be possible to contest a divorce under the new no-fault divorce law.

Under the current divorce law, one person submits a divorce petition, citing their spouse’s behaviour or two years of separation as the reason for the divorce, and their spouse can contest this. This is what happened in the high profile Tini and Hugh Owens case. The new no-fault law removes the ability to prevent a divorce from happening.

How long will a no-fault divorce take?

A no-fault divorce will take longer. Under the no-fault law, a new 20 week “reflection period” will be established, which means that a divorce will take six months to complete. 

How long does a divorce take under the current rules?

Under the current system, if both parties are in agreement, you can divorce in 3 to 4 months.

Can I choose between a fault-based or no-fault based divorce?

No, once the new no-fault divorce law comes in on the 6th April 2022, you will lose the ability to choose the current process.

What happens if I wait for the no-fault divorce?

As more people become aware that the new divorce law will increase the duration of a divorce, more are likely to apply for divorce under the old system. Anyone wishing to take advantage of a fast divorce will have until 4:00 pm on the 31st March 2022 to file for divorce.

Should I divorce now or wait until the law changes?

A no-fault divorce will take longer. So if you both agree agree and you want to divorce quickly, without delays to your divorce or financial settlement, divorcing under the current laws will help you achieve this objective.

On the other hand, if you have a difficult partner who won’t agree to divorce or you’ve been separated under two years or don’t want to cite unreasonable behaviour, then the new no-fault divorce law on the 6th of April is probably the better option for you.

As more people realise that the no-fault divorce will take longer, there will be more applications under the old system. If you want to take advantage of a quick divorce you have until 4:00pm on the 31st of March 2022 to make the application.

If you have any questions about this article or divorce in general, you can email or schedule your free consultation here.

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