From 6 April 2022, married couples and those in a civil partnership will be able to obtain a divorce or dissolution without having to blame the other party.
The couple can either file a joint statement that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably, or one party can file a sole statement. The statement will be considered conclusive proof by the court that the marriage is over and prevents the other party from contesting a divorce, except in extreme circumstances.
There have been mixed views surrounding these changes, with some commenting that it will be too easy for couples to divorce, and presents a number of moral and religious implications undermining the sanctity of the institution. It could be argued that making divorce more accessible and straightforward might make couples opt to legally separate whenever problems first arise in their relationship, instead of taking the time to rescue their relationship. There is also a fear that the no fault divorce will fail to hold partners accountable for their behaviour, which may give off the message that unreasonable conduct by a partner is acceptable.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that once the statement has been filed with the court, the parties will be safeguarded with the 20-week cooling off period. As my colleague Sharon Priday suggested in her recent post here, the cooling off period will cause delay to the divorce process, which has several potential implications; for example if a party wishes to remarry, or a party is seeking to retain assets which are increasing in value.
However, the cooling off period also allows couples to ensure that it is the right decision for them. It also provides sufficient time for parties to engage with some form of marriage therapy or counselling.
As a divorce lawyer and a member of Resolution (an organisation committed to promoting non-adversarial approach to family law), who has guided many couples through the turbulent divorce process, the no fault divorce system is much welcomed. It will inevitably help to minimise the conflict between the parties from the outset and help the parties to focus on reaching an amicable settlement that works for them and their wider family.
If you would like to discuss these changes or the divorce process in general, please contact a member of our Family team.
The biggest shake-up of divorce laws in 50 years in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems) means this archaic “blame game” — part of English divorce law since 1660 — will finally be replaced with no-fault divorces.