What is no-fault divorce and how does it affect separating couples in England & Wales?

Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 10:20 AM
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Is no-fault divorce legal in the UK?

The introduction of the ‘No-fault divorce’ bill in England and Wales has been on the government's agenda for many years.

As of the April 6th, 2022, couples can divorce or end their civil partnership using the new no-fault divorce system which has replaced the previous 'fault-‘ or ‘grounds-based' system.

If your divorce application was issued before the April 6th, 2022, then you will have to use the previous system.

What is ‘no-fault divorce’?

Up until March 2022, divorcing couples in England and Wales had to choose from five reasons to prove their marriage or civil partnership had broken irretrievably. This was usually referred to as having ‘grounds for divorce’. However, on April 6th, 2022, the divorce law changed for the first time in 50 years and no-fault divorce replaced the old process to divorce.

No-fault divorce ends 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 apply for a divorce together, rather than one person divorcing the other.

How is ‘no-fault divorce’ different to the old divorce laws in England and Wales?

What do the new ‘no-fault divorce’ laws mean for divorcing couples in England & Wales?

  • The new laws will end the necessity for couples to blame each other or be separated for long periods of time.
  • ‘No-fault divorce’ is now the sole reason for divorce and replaces the five options that used to be listed on the legal documents (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation and five years separation)
  • You can now apply for divorce or dissolve your civil partnership as an individual (as before) or as a couple.
  • There is no longer an option to contest the divorce. If one of you knows it's over – it is.
  • There are still two stages after applying for a divorce, called the Conditional Order (previously called the Decree Nisi) and the Final Order (previously called the Decree Absolute).
  • Every couple will have to go through the ‘20-week reflection period’ after submitting your divorce application.
  • The language used on the forms has changed to get rid of the archaic language: what is now called a 'Divorce Petition' will be called a ‘Divorce Application’; 'Decree Nisi' is now called 'Conditional Order'; 'Decree Absolute' is now called the 'Final Order'.

How long does a no fault divorce take?

It will take a minimum of 30 weeks to divorce or end your civil partnership.

How much does a 'no-fault divorce' cost?

You can apply for a No-fault divorce for free using the government portal, however, you must pay a £593 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 the cost of no-fault divorce 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.

Why is ‘no-fault divorce’ important?

The shift from ‘fault-‘ or ‘grounds-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 each other, helping them to protect their children and keeping conflict to a minimum.

Children are placed front and centre under the new laws as parents will be able to keep things on an amicable footing and prioritise the care of their children 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.

If you live in Scotland and are looking for help, please refer to the latest government advice here.

If you're based in Northern Ireland, ‘no-fault divorce’ is still under review**.

But the hope is that the progress of England and Wales will see the reform of this law in Northern Ireland accelerated.

*Accurate as of 28/09/2018

For help with divorce if you live in Northern Ireland, please check the blog/latest government advice here.

If you and or your ex-partner 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 history & timeline of ‘no-fault divorce’

April 2022: No-fault divorce is introduced, and couples can finally submit for divorce without having to blame one person or wait for long periods of time.

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 call us on 020 3004 4695, or book a free 15-minute ‘No-fault divorce’ consultation below.


Can you get a no-fault divorce in the UK?

Yes, you can get a No-fault divorce in England and Wales from the 6th of April 2022. Scotland already has No-fault divorce and at the moment, No-fault divorce ins’t in place in Northern Ireland.

How does No-fault divorce work?

The definition of no-fault divorce is a shift from the old system which is associated with blame to one which is not. There will be a mandatory waiting time between submitting 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?

Yes, in England and Wales, couples can submit for divorce using No-fault divorce from 6th April 2022.

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Speak to an amicable Divorce Specialist to understand your options and next steps for untying the knot, amicably.

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Comments (2)

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03.09.2021 15:31

My enquiry is on behalf of my son Daniel. He has been separated from his wife for approximately 18 months, after a marriage of approximately 9 years, and has set up home with a new partner with whom he has a daughter. Adultery is not the reason for divorcing, simply a breakdown of their marriage. His wife has formally requested the divorce. Both parties have been using solicitors but both parties can no longer afford the cost, Daniel has recently been made redundant. The divorce is not exactly contested, but his wife is trying to obtain unreasonable financial settlements, including an attempt to obtain a financial payoff from myself and my wife, and will not proceed until these completely unreasonable and indefinite financial demands are met. Daniel has been making voluntary and informal cash payments to his wife since they separated. They own no property together, have no children together, and his wife has kept virtually all their joint possesions, including a car which was on finance. the balance of which was cleared by Daniel. His wife is working, but only on a part time self employed basis. Will the "No-Fault Divorce" help this situation ? How should Daniel go about this ? What financial liability does Daniel have to his current wife, especially considering that he has a new family to support ? I would greatly appreciate your help and advice, on Daniel's behalf.

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Holly from amicable
21.07.2022 8:00

Hi Kevin, thanks for reaching out to amicable. If Daniel and his wife, haven't started their divorce yet, then they can use no-fault divorce. After the introduction of no-fault divorce, there will be very limited grounds on which you can dispute the divorce, with these being: jurisdiction, the validity of the marriage, or that the marriage has already been legally ended.If they've already started their divorce using the old system, then the 'respondent' would have to accept the 'adultery' if that's the grounds that were used. In terms of the financial arrangements, they can only be made legally binding through a consent order or more broadly a financial order at the middle stage of the process. If your son and his wife can cooperate with each other, it will likely save them a lot in legal fees. amicable offer coaching services to help them to reach an agreement.