On the 6th of April 2022, obtaining a divorce became considerably easier and less stressful for everyone involved. The new law referred to as ‘no-fault divorce’ was introduced under the Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Act 2020, which allows 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 the 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’ under 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 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 also allows couples to apply for a joint divorce, in addition to sole applications.
If you would like friendly, bespoke advice about divorce, separation 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 – David Milburn, Meg Moss or Satya Bagga
- Complete this contact form for a quick response
Get expert advice about no-fault divorce
Our lawyers are here to provide all the divorce advice and support you need to obtain a divorce or civil partnership dissolution from your partner. Our service covers:
- Making the divorce or dissolution application on your behalf, ensuring every detail is completed to the highest degree of accuracy. This may also include applying for divorce using the online process, which often avoids delay.
- Responding to divorce and dissolution 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 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 that came into force on the 6th of April 2022, which changes how couples can get divorced or dissolve their civil partnership. The changes make the process much easier and reduce the risk of lengthy and contentious court proceedings arising.
How did the previous divorce law work?
The previous divorce process was in place since the 1970s and was heavily criticised for being out of date.
Divorce and dissolution proceedings were previously based on a one-sided ‘petition’ to prove that the relationship had irretrievably broken down. There were specific reasons or ‘facts’ the petitioner had to rely on:
- The fault facts:
- Adultery (this fact was not available for civil partnership dissolutions)
- Unreasonable behaviour (where one party had 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 meant if a petitioner wanted to get a divorce or dissolution straight away, they had no choice but to place blame on their partner.
Furthermore, if one party disagreed with the reasons put forward or simply did not want to get divorced, defending a divorce or dissolution petition was possible. This usually ended up in court, where it was 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 does no-fault divorce work?
Under the new law, couples still need to apply on the ground that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. However, the five facts have been abolished. This means that it is no longer possible to challenge divorce and dissolution applications (apart from in very narrow circumstances, such as allegations of fraud or jurisdiction).
Other key changes include:
- Couples are able to apply for a joint petition to make it clear that the decision to separate is mutual.
- Some of the legal language used has been updated. For example:
- ‘Petition’ is now ‘application’.
- The ‘petitioner’ is now the ‘applicant’.
- ‘Decree Nisi’ is now ‘Conditional Order’.
- ‘Decree Absolute’ is now ‘Final Order’.
- The process has become longer – there is a 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. There is also a further 6 week minimum wait from the date the Conditional Order is granted until the Final Order can be applied for.
Couples will still need to sort out their financial arrangements and arrangements for children alongside or after 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 the 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.
Why was no-fault divorce needed?
The problem with the old divorce law is that it required the couple to prove reasons, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, for the relationship breakdown. Obtaining a divorce or dissolution took much longer if you did 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 were 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 divorce.
The previous ability for people to challenge divorce proceedings also put 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, therefore, makes the process much easier and less distressing for the vast majority of couples.
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 Family Law team benefits from the experience and expertise of the department’s lead partner David Milburn, who has over 20 years’ experience in Family Law. He is described by Legal 500 as follows:
“A highly astute divorce lawyer who takes charge of cases and ensures that they are kept moving with purpose, ultimately delivering very satisfying conclusions”
“A great tactician”
"Meg Moss is absolutely excellent. She is extremely professional, always up to date, and knows cases inside out."
Our other highly rated solicitor is Satya Bagga. She advises in relation to all family matters, including Divorce, although she has particular expertise in complex children matters.
Speak to our no-fault divorce solicitors in Cirencester and Cheltenham 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: