Does the UK have ‘no-fault divorce’? The introduction of the ‘no-fault divorce’ bill in England and Wales has been on the government's agenda for many years.
This guide will explain the meaning of ‘no-fault divorce,’ when it comes into place in England and Wales and what can be done in the meantime if you are separating from your ex and are interested in a no-fault divorce.
What is a ‘no-fault divorce’?
In England and Wales, there are currently five reasons couples can use to prove their marriage/ civil partnership has broken now irretrievably, these are often referred to as the ‘grounds for divorce’.
If you’ve not been separated for more than two years (with your ex’s consent), or five years (without), you can’t get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership in England and Wales without one person being blamed for the breakdown of the marriage.
No-fault divorce will end the ‘blame-game’, meaning that couples will no longer need to blame one another to prove the breakdown of their marriage. Separating couples will also be able to file for divorce together, rather than one person divorcing the other.
Does the UK have No-Fault Divorce?
In April 2019, the ‘no-fault divorce’ bill passed it's second reading in Parliament and got Royal Assent in June 2020. However, ‘no-fault divorce’ doesn’t come into play in England and Wales until the 6th of April 2022. This allows us the time to fully understand the no-fault divorce meaning, what to expect and what to do in the meantime if you have the grounds for a no-fault divorce.
The government originally planned to implement ‘no-fault divorce’ in Autumn (October) 2021, most likely because rule changes in the government tend to take place in April and October. However, on the 7th of June 2021, they announced that the technical side of implementing such a big change was taking longer than expected and therefore they have delayed the introduction of the new divorce laws until April 2022.
How will ‘no-fault divorce’ in England and Wales affect the current system?
What do the new ‘no-fault divorce’ laws mean for the UK?
- The new laws will end the necessity for couples to blame each other or be separated for long periods of time.
- ‘No-fault divorce’ will become the sole reason for divorce and will replace the five options currently listed on the legal documents (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation and five years separation)
- You will be able to give notice of your intention to divorce or end your civil partnership as an individual (like now) or as a couple.
- There will no longer be an option to contest the divorce. If one of you thinks it's over – it is.
- There will still be two stages after giving notice, currently called decree nisi and decree absolute.
- Every couple will have to go through a six-month minimum notification period after filing the petition.
- The language used on the forms will be changed to get rid of the archaic language. For example, what is now called a 'divorce petition' will be called 'an application for divorce order', 'decree nisi' will be changed to 'conditional order of divorce' and 'decree absolute' will change to 'final order of divorce'.
How much does a 'no-fault divorce' cost?
t’s hard to speculate whether the introduction of the new divorce laws will correspond with a revision of the current court fees. You can currently divorce for free using the government portal, however, you must pay a £550 court fee (unless you are eligible for a discount. You can use our court fee calculator to find out if you’re eligible for a discount.
If you would like to learn more about how much a 'no-fault divorce' costs, and how to keep the costs down read our helpful guide here. If you’re wondering how to get a ‘no-fault divorce’, call us today to discuss your options.
What should you do if you want to divorce or end your civil partnership now?
We know separating from your partner can be hard, especially given the current ‘blame-game culture’, that’s why here at amicable, we try and make the process as least acrimonious as possible.
‘No-fault divorce’ only requires one or both parties to state that the marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’. As mentioned above, this is different to the current system, whereby you have to choose one of the existing five reasons to support the fact your marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’. Therefore, if you are looking to divorce/ dissolve your civil partnership prior to the implementation of ‘no-fault divorce’ in April 2022, here are your options:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Adultery (can't be used by same-sex couples)
- Two years separation
- Five years separation
Separation doesn't involve blame, and if you and your partner agree, and have been separated for more than two years, you can use that as your reason for divorce.
Alternatively, you can divorce use five years separation without your partner’s consent.
Adultery, unreasonable behaviour and desertion are all largely blame based and you can call us today to discuss how to navigate using these grounds for divorce.
Amicable specialise in ‘mild’ unreasonable behaviour petitions which focus on reducing the conflict caused by such statements.
Are there reasons not to wait for ‘no-fault divorce’?
- If you have a financial consent order as part of your divorce or dissolution, then this can only be sent to court and made legally binding once you have reached the decree nisi stage. If you must wait six months in addition to waiting for decree nisi you could be waiting a long time to finalise both legal processes.
- There may be tax implications if you wait to divorce, for example if you own property and one of you has already moved out.
If I'm going to wait for No-Fault divorce, can I protect myself if we're just separating?
- If you're going to separate before you divorce, then you could consider a separation agreement. A separation agreement is an agreement between the two of you that sets out what will happen to your finances during your separation and before you get a financial consent order.
- Unlike a consent order, a separation agreement isn't enforceable through the court.
- Usually, a separation agreement is the basis for a consent order, but if one person changes their mind, it can be used by the other in a court hearing to show what has happened so far and what you agreed was fair at the outset. A judge will consider a separation agreement if it is properly drawn up, witnessed and was reasonable in the circumstances at the time.
Why is ‘no-fault divorce’ important?
The shift from ‘fault-based divorce’ to ‘no-fault divorce’ proceedings is a hugely welcome development and one that is long overdue. The divorce laws in England and Wales have not changed this significantly in over 50 years.
Moving away from an antiquated fault-based system will empower people to start their separation without placing blame on one person, help them to protect their children and keep conflict to a minimum.
Children are the biggest winners in the new changes to the laws as parents will be able to keep things on an amicable footing and prioritise the care of their kids over arguing about divorce proceedings.
What is the law on ‘no-fault divorce’ elsewhere in the UK?
Scotland already has ‘no-fault divorce’ in place, and couples can divorce after two years apart without the need of the other person’s consent. It can be done after just one year of marriage if you have consent from your ex.
For help if you live in Scotland, please check the latest government advice here
If you're based in Northern Ireland, ‘no-fault divorce’ is still under review, unfortunately. But the hope is that the progress of England and Wales will see the reform of this law in Northern Ireland accelerated.
For help with divorce if you live in Northern Ireland, please check the latest government advice here
If you and or your ex live or are domiciled in either England or Wales, amicable can help. Talk to us today or book a free 15-minute advice call here, to discuss how no-fault divorce will impact you.
The blame game in divorce
Because we don't yet have ‘no-fault divorce’ in England and Wales, if you're applying for a divorce or dissolution now, using 'unreasonable behaviour', you must list events strong enough to be accepted by a judge.
It's a ridiculous balancing act trying to find reasons strong enough to pass through the court yet not so contentious as to overly upset your ex.
Furthermore, even if you have an amicable divorce, seeing a list of your misdemeanours at a time that is already emotionally charged, can be incredibly upsetting.
This can create conflict and set the process back considerably. In many circumstances, there has been no 'unreasonable behaviour', just a slow realisation that the relationship is over and no longer tenable.
This new law to allow blameless divorce will help tens of thousands of people who want to divorce amicably and without further drama for either party or their children.
Over two-thirds of people support No-Fault divorce
A YouGov poll showed that 69% of the UK population support ‘no-fault divorce’. There is increasing media coverage about the benefits of an amicable divorce, and 99% of divorces in England and Wales are uncontested.
An article by Flic Everett in the Daily Telegraph highlighted the growing number of people who are choosing to 'semi-split' rather than blaming their partner.
People are finding ways around the current law that make more sense for their family. It's a positive move towards divorce and relationship breakdown becoming a less painful process.
‘No-fault divorce’ timeline - what's happened so far?
June 2021: The introduction of the ‘No-fault divorce’ law in England and Wales is postponed until April 2022
On the 7th of June 2021, the government announced that they will delay implementing no-fault divorce until the 6th April 2022.
June 2020: New divorce laws and ‘no-fault divorce’ receive Royal Assent
The new divorce laws pass the second hearing in Parliament and shortly after receiving Royal Assent. Listen to episode ten of The Divorce Podcast, when Nigel Shepherd joins host Kate Daly to discuss this.
April 2019: New divorce law in England and Wales?
David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor confirmed today that divorce laws will change and 'no-fault divorce' will be introduced. This is the first change in divorce laws for nearly 50 years.
September 2018: Tini Owens
Tini Owens was refused her divorce by a judge. She used her husbands 'unreasonable behaviour' as the reason for the divorce. During divorce proceedings, Mr Owens rejected her reasoning, stating that he wanted to remain married. This sparked controversy and debate. Mrs Owns went to the High Court to appeal this decision. If you want to know more about this historical case, read our blog here.
Where can I find help?
If in the meantime, if you want an amicable divorce, we're here to help. If you need any assistance please book a call today on 020 3004 4695, for a free 15-minute ‘no-fault divorce’ consultation.
Can you get a no-fault divorce in the UK?
You can currently get a ‘no-fault divorce’ in Scotland and will be able to get a no-fault divorce in England and Wales after the 6th of April 2022. At the moment, no-fault divorce ins’t in place in Northern Ireland.
How will no-fault divorce work?
The definition of no-fault divorce is a shift from the current system which is associated with blame to one which is not. There will be a mandatory waiting time between filing for divorce and the conditional order, intended as a time for reflection and there as a safeguard.
What are the benefits of no-fault divorce?
There are many benefits of no-fault divorce, the most important being removing the blame from the current system.
Is no-fault divorce now law in the UK?
It is currently not yet law in England and Wales, but it will be introduced on the 6th April 2022.