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No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorce is going to become available in the UK in Autumn 2021, making it possible for couples to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution without having to resort to the ‘blame game’, as well as removing the ability for one party to contest a divorce.

If you are worried about facing a contested divorce or are hesitant to place blame on your partner for the breakdown of your relationship, then the introduction of no-fault divorce should come as a welcome relief.

However, while waiting for no-fault divorce to be introduced may seem like the logical way forward, this will depend on your individual circumstances. It is therefore important to seek expert legal advice to help clarify your situation.

At Preston Redman, our experienced team of divorce solicitors can guide you through the details related to no-fault divorce, taking your individual circumstances into consideration, and advising you on whether it is the right option for you.

Our head of Family Law, Tim Flower, has particular expertise in taking a constructive approach to family law matters and, alongside the other members of our team, is well placed to advise you in relation to no-fault divorce.

If you are looking for any further information regarding no-fault divorce or you wish to set up a confidential initial consultation with a member of our team, give us a call at our office or email office@prestonredman.co.uk.

Why is no-fault divorce being introduced?

Currently, couples in England and Wales can only get a divorce or civil partnership if they are able to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down.

For this to be the case, couples have to rely on one or more of the following facts:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery (not available for civil partnership dissolution)
  • Desertion (where your partner has left you for at least 2 years out of the last 2.5 without your consent, without good reason and with the intention to end your relationship)
  • Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of your spouse/civil partner
  • Separation for at least 5 years whether your spouse/civil partner consents or not

A divorce petition will be submitted by one party, citing one or more of the facts to prove irretrievable breakdown. If the other party disagrees with the divorce, or the facts relied upon, then they can contest the divorce and the couple may have to go to court which can be expensive and stressful.

The current law has come under heavy scrutiny, as the ‘facts’ are outdated and do not necessarily reflect some of the reasons behind a couple’s decision to separate. For example, you may have read about the case of Tini Owens who was refused a divorce in 2018, despite being very unhappy in the marriage, because her husband did not consent and she could not rely on any other ‘fact’.

Conflict is not always present when a couple decides to separate and, even in contentious cases, the need to pursue a blame game is considered an outdated approach. There should be no need for someone to publicly air their grievances or potentially have to stay married against their will.

How will no-fault divorce work?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (the law on no-fault divorce) will introduce several important new changes to divorce law.

The new changes include:

  • Keeping the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown of the relationship
  • Removing the requirement to rely on one of the five facts for irretrievable breakdown
  • Updating the language associated with a divorce:
    • ‘Decree Nisi’ will become a ‘Conditional Order’
    • ‘Decree Absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’
    • The ‘Petitioner’ will become the ‘Applicant’
  • Introducing joint applications – allowing couples to mutually agree that the relationship has irretrievably broken down
  • Removing the ability for someone to contest a divorce
  • Introducing a minimum of 20 weeks from the start of divorce proceedings to when a Conditional Order can be made
  • Maintaining the six-week period between the Conditional Order and Final order being made

What does the introduction of no-fault divorce mean for couples?

No-fault divorce is likely to have a number of impacts on separating couples:

The removal of the ‘blame game’

Couples will no longer have to blame one another for the breakdown of their relationship and will instead be able to end their relationship amicably. This is a much more accurate reflection of the nature of many separations.

No contested divorces

It will no longer be possible for a divorce to be contested. This means that someone will not have to remain in a relationship they wish to leave.

Opportunities to apply for joint applications

If both parties agree to a divorce or dissolution, then it will be possible to make a joint application. This will mean that the separation is well balanced and caters to both parties.

Additional time to make important arrangements

The new time scales introduced in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act mean that couples will have to wait around six months for their divorce or dissolution to finalise. This will provide couples with the opportunity to consider whether they do want to separate, as well as time to make separate arrangements for:

  • Finances
  • Child residence
  • Child maintenance
  • Parenting plans

Should couples wait for no-fault divorce to be introduced?

If you have already made the decision to divorce, then the best course of action would be to proceed as normal, rather than waiting for the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act to be brought into effect.

The need to blame a divorce on one party is an understandably unattractive prospect for many couples, but it is mostly symbolic and will not usually have an effect on the final outcome.

That being said, there may be certain circumstances where you would prefer to wait for no-fault divorce. These could include situations where:

  • Your partner has informed you that they will challenge a divorce application
  • Your partner does not agree to a divorce, and you are unable to rely on one of the five ‘facts’
  • You have been separated for five years, but you know that your partner will challenge divorce proceedings on the basis of ‘grave financial hardship’

If you are unsure whether you should apply for a divorce now or wait for no-fault divorce to be introduced, then it is important that you seek expert legal advice.

Why choose Preston Redman for advice about no-fault divorce?

Our expert divorce solicitors have years of combined experience in a wide range of family law matters. We combine professional family law knowledge with a friendly and personal service, allowing you to feel able to talk openly about your individual circumstances. We always prioritise your personal interests and those of your children, aiming for a long-term resolution that allows you to move on with your life in confidence.

Amongst our extensive expertise, we are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation Scheme and Tim Flower is an accredited specialist of the Family Law Panel. Two members of our team, Mark Hensleigh and Helen Davies, are members of Resolution and Mark is also a qualified mediator.

Preston Redman is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Get in touch with our no-fault divorce solicitors in Bournemouth, Dorset

If you are looking for any further information regarding no-fault divorce or you wish to set up a confidential initial consultation with a member of our team, give us a call at our office or email office@prestonredman.co.uk.