Divorce is about to become easier and less stressful for everyone. From 6 April 2022, a new law referred to as ‘no-fault divorce’ will allow couples to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution without having to place blame for the relationship breakdown.
At Tanners, our dissolution and divorce solicitors have long been believers in blame-free divorce. The Divorce team here at Tanners are all members of Resolution. Our goal is to help separating couples work through divorce and dissolution issues with minimal conflict, reducing stress and heartache for all the family, particularly children.
You may have seen the famous case of Tini Owens in the news over the past few years. Tini Owens was refused a divorce in 2018 because she could not prove that her relationship had ‘irretrievably broken down’ due to one of the five acceptable legal reasons (known as the five ‘facts’). In her case she attempted to rely on the ‘fact’ of unreasonable behaviour albeit without success.
Under the new no-fault divorce law, couples will no longer have to rely on one or more of the five ‘facts’ (such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour) to achieve a divorce or dissolution. This means that an unwilling partner can no longer defend the proceedings or trap their partner in an unhappy marriage or civil partnership. In some cases this allowed abusive spouses to exercise coercive control over the other spouse.
No-fault divorce will also allow a couple to apply for a divorce jointly on the basis of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
If you would like friendly, bespoke advice about divorce and dissolution, including no-fault divorce, get in touch with our Family Law team. You can contact us in one of the following ways:
- Telephone – 01285 659061.
- Email – Elizabeth Saunders or David Milburn.
- Complete this contact form for a quick response.
Get expert advice about no-fault divorce
Our divorce lawyers are here to provide all the advice and support you need to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution from your partner. Our service covers:
- Making the divorce or dissolution petition/application on your behalf, ensuring every detail is completed to the highest degree of accuracy. This may also include applying for a divorce using the online process which often avoids delay.
- Responding to divorce and dissolution petitions/applications
- Helping separating couples work out financial issues, such as:
- Deciding what to do with the family home
- Dividing savings, pensions, investments and other finances
- Sorting out child maintenance and spousal maintenance
- Helping separating couples work out arrangements for children, such as:
- Deciding where your children will live most of the time (previously referred to as ‘residence’)
- Deciding how much time your children should spend with each parent (previously referred to as ‘contact’)
- Making important decisions about your children’s upbringing, such as where they should go to school
We can provide advice about whether waiting for no-fault divorce would benefit you and whether you have any other options, such as making a Separation Agreement (which can separate your finances and set out arrangements for children without officially ending your marriage or civil partnership).
What is no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce is the new law which will change how couples get divorced or dissolve their civil partnership from 6 April 2022. The changes should make the process much easier and reduce the risk of lengthy and contentious court proceedings arising.
How does the current divorce law work?
The current divorce process has been in place since the 1970s and has long been criticised for being out of date.
At the moment, divorce and dissolution is always based on a one-sided ‘petition’ to prove that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. There are specific reasons or ‘facts’ the petitioner must rely on:
- The fault facts:
- Adultery (this fact is not available for civil partnership dissolutions)
- Unreasonable behaviour (where one party has allegedly behaved so badly that it would be unreasonable for the petitioner to be expected to continue living with them)
- The separation facts:
- Separation for at least two years with the consent of both parties
- Separation for at least five years, no consent needed
- Desertion for at least two years
This means if you want to get a divorce or dissolution straight away, you have no choice but to place blame on your partner.
Furthermore, if one party disagrees with the reasons put forward or they simply do not want to get divorced, it is possible to defend a divorce or dissolution petition. This usually ends up in court which can be expensive and stressful for everyone involved.
This is what happened in Tini Owens’ case (Owens v Owens). Tini Owens petitioned for divorce on the ground of unreasonable behaviour, but her husband did not want to get divorced at all. He challenged the petition and Tini Owens was unable to provide enough evidence in court. She was therefore forced to wait until they had been separated for five years to get a divorce.
How will no-fault divorce work?
Under the new law, couples will still need to apply on the ground that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. However, the five facts will be abolished. This means that it will no longer be possible to challenge divorce and dissolution applications (apart from in very narrow circumstances, such as allegations of fraud).
Other key changes include:
- Couples will also be able to apply for a joint petition to make it clear that the decision to separate is mutual.
- Some of the legal language used will be updated. For example:
- ‘Petition’ will become ‘application’.
- The ‘petitioner’ will become the ‘applicant’.
- ‘Decree Nisi’ will become ‘Conditional Order’.
- ‘Decree Absolute’ will become ‘Final Order’.
- The process will become longer – there will be a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of the process to the date a Conditional Order can be made. This is intended to give couples time to reflect.
Couples will still need to sort out their financial arrangements and arrangements for children alongside the no-fault divorce process.
Whilst the new law removes the possibility to contest a divorce, all divorce applications could still be challenged on the bases of jurisdiction, validity, fraud or procedural non-compliance so while this change in the law is very much welcomed and overdue, divorce is still a complicated process and we would always encourage you to speak to a solicitor, especially if you are thinking about delaying your case until the new law is introduced.
Why is no-fault divorce needed?
The problem with the old divorce law is that it requires the couple to prove reasons, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, for the relationship breakdown. Getting a divorce or dissolution takes much longer if you do not have a negative reason to separate.
For example, some couples simply drift apart over the years or fall out of love. However, these couples are required to either place blame anyway or wait at least two years to officially end their relationship.
In reality, this has led to many couples being untruthful about their reasons for separation. Research by the Nuffield Foundation in 2017 revealed that of couples who relied on a fault fact, only 29% believed that this closely matched their real reason for divorcing.
The ability for people to challenge divorce proceedings also puts people at risk of becoming trapped in unhappy and sometimes abusive relationships, unable to move on with their lives until they wait five years or risk being dragged to court.
No-fault divorce should therefore make the process much easier and less distressing for the vast majority of couples.
Should you wait for no-fault divorce?
If you want to get a divorce or dissolution now and you and your partner are both on the same page, there is probably no point waiting for no-fault divorce to come in. This is because undefended divorce petitions will usually be accepted, regardless of the reasons provided.
However, you may benefit from waiting if:
- Your partner has said they will challenge your application and you do not want to go to court.
- You are strongly against placing blame for the relationship breakdown.
- You want to make a joint application.
If you are not sure about whether to wait, our divorce solicitors can talk you through your options and provide tailored advice so you can make a confident decision about how to proceed.
Why choose Tanners for no-fault divorce and dissolution advice?
Our family law experts are here to guide you through divorce and dissolution as smoothly and cost effectively as possible.
Our team includes partner Elizabeth Saunders, who is ranked Band 1 in family and matrimonial law by leading client guide Chambers & Partners. Elizabeth is also an accredited Resolution specialist and trained Collaborative Lawyer.
“a highly astute divorce lawyer who takes charge of cases and ensures that they are kept moving with purpose, ultimately delivering very satisfying conclusions" and
"A great tactician".
Speak to our no-fault divorce solicitors in Cirencester today
For friendly, bespoke advice about divorce and dissolution, including no-fault divorce, get in touch with our Family Law team. You can contact us in one of the following ways: