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New Non-Fault Divorce Laws

View profile for Andrew Campbell
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As of the 6th April 2022, the law on divorce/dissolution had one of its biggest changes in 50 years. The main change has meant that for spouses, or civil partners, you will not need to use fault as a reason for divorce/dissolution. The only thing that will need to be proven is that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.


The Law Before

Before this the Court still required for the marriage/civil partnership to have broken down irretrievably but this had to be proven using one of the following methods:-


  1. Unreasonable behaviour (fault based);
  2. Adultery (fault based);
  3. 2 years’ separation with consent;
  4. 5 years’ separation; or
  5. Desertion.


Therefore, the changes in the law also mean there is no longer a requirement for the parties to have separated for at least 2 years if they do not wish to use a fault-based divorce/dissolution. It remains that you will not be able to apply for a divorce/dissolution if you have only been married or in a civil partnership for less than a year.


The Main Changes

The new laws have changed a variety of things to deal with the process. Some of the main ones are as follows:-


  1. How - The application for divorce/dissolution can be made by both spouses/civil partners should they wish to.
  2. Terminology -  Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute have been replaced with a Conditional Order and Final Order.
  3. Time - There is a minimum period of around 26 weeks for a divorce/dissolution to be completed. This is largely due to the new law meaning that a Conditional Order cannot be applied for until 20 weeks after the court proceedings have been started. The reason for this new waiting period is to enable a couple to have more time to reflect and consider if there is any chance for reconciliation. Once you have a Conditional Order, you will have to wait a minimum of 6 weeks before the Final Order can be applied for. This 6 week time period is largely the same as the wait previously required between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute;
  4. Costs - Previously it was quite common for people using a fault based divorce to recover all or some of their costs associated with the divorce or dissolution. Given that the element of fault is now gone, obtaining costs is likely to be more difficult.


Financial Matters

The law dealing with financial matters stemming from the divorce/dissolution has largely remained the same. A lot of people do not realise that when you marry, or enter into a civil partnership, you create two ties being financial tie and matrimonial tie. If you were to go through all of the divorce/dissolution, and not have a financial order from the Court which provided for what is known as a clean break provision, you will only sever your matrimonial tie. If this is done, there is a risk that a financial claim in respect of the marriage/civil partnership can be made after the divorce/dissolution.


Under the new laws, it appears more focus shall be given to ensuring that the finances are dealt with before the divorce can be completed. The Court will now not finalise a divorce/dissolution unless:-


  1. The person applying is not required to make a financial provision for the other person; or
  2. The person applying has already made a financial provision for the other which is reasonable and fair or the best that can be made in the circumstances.


We are still yet to full see how this will impact upon cases. With the new total waiting period of 26 weeks, we would hope to utilise this time to focus on settling the financial matters. This can hopefully mean that an agreement and consent order can be made to mean that everything is completed as quickly as possible.


Our Help

At John Hodge Solicitors our Family Law team is very experienced in all matter of family law, including disputes over financial matters, children issues and divorce.  Our solicitors are members of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and Resolution and you can therefore be confident in the advice that you receive.


Our Family law team will provide you with expert legal advice, draft all of your legal documents, offer you advice on the next steps to be taken during proceedings and, should your proceedings require attendance at court, represent you during those hearings.  We understand that this is an extremely stressful time and, by providing expert advice and being approachable, we hope to remove as much stress from our client’s as possible.


We, at John Hodge Solicitors, understand the pit falls to look out for during Family disputes, our solicitors are friendly, approachable and easy to talk to. The Family team offer a free consultation within which they provide expert advice with no obligation.