No fault divorce has transformed the process of dissolving a marriage in the UK since it was introduced in 2022.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, to give No Fault Divorce its proper name, is designed to minimise conflict among divorcing couples. It’s also quicker, cheaper and easier for both husband and wife.
Even more importantly, it minimises the stress and heartache for children caught up in the crossfire between their parents.
The Act achieves this by ending the blame game, in which one spouse had to make accusations about the other’s behaviour.
It doesn’t mean couples no longer need the help of divorce lawyers, but it does make the whole process easier and less damaging.
The early signs suggest it’s been a huge success.
A new approach to divorce
Until no fault divorce came into effect in April 2022, the process of ending a marriage was governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
This required couples in the UK to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down based on one of five grounds: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years of separation (with consent), or five years of separation (without consent).
This approach often exacerbated conflict, hampered amicable resolutions, and prolonged the emotional and financial burdens on both parties involved.
No-fault divorce is designed to address these issues and promote a more compassionate and constructive approach to relationship dissolution.
How new approach works
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was introduced to minimise conflict among divorcing couples by eliminating the need to make accusations about a spouse’s behaviour and allowing couples to mutually terminate their marriage.
Now, it is sufficient to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Additionally, the Act permits couples to apply for divorce jointly when both parties agree to separate.
Of the applications received in the first three months of the introduction of No Fault Divorce, 78% were from sole applicants, while 22% were joint applications, including those for the dissolution of civil partnerships.
A minimum waiting period of 20 weeks must elapse between the initiation of proceedings and the application for a conditional order.
This period provides couples with a meaningful period of contemplation and an opportunity to reconsider their decision. In cases where divorce is inevitable, it allows couples to collaborate and plan for the future.
Contesting a divorce is no longer be possible, except on limited grounds such as jurisdiction.
Advantages of No Fault Divorce
There’s no question that No Fault Divorce has brought huge benefits. These are some of the main advantages.
The fault-based system encouraged couples to attribute blame, leading to increased conflict and hostility. No-fault divorce shifted the focus from assigning fault to encouraging cooperation and minimising acrimony, especially when children are involved.
Supporting amicable resolutions
The previous system often forced couples into adversarial positions, hindering their ability to reach mutually satisfactory settlements. By contrast, No Fault Divorce facilitates constructive negotiations, making it easier for couples to agree on matters such as financial settlements, child custody, and support.
Protecting the interests of children
Lengthy and contentious divorce proceedings can have a detrimental impact on children’s well-being. No Fault Divorce seeks to prioritise the best interests of children by fostering a more child-centric approach that encourages cooperation and minimises conflict.
The old fault-based system could be time-consuming and costly due to the need for gathering evidence and contesting allegations.
No Fault Divorce aims to simplify and expedite the process, reducing the burden on the courts and the parties involved.
Greater emotional well-being
No-fault divorce minimises blame and animosity, allowing couples to focus on healing and moving forward rather than dwelling on past grievances.
By reducing conflict, No Fault Divorce can enhance communication and cooperation between parents, fostering healthier co-parenting relationships and providing a more stable environment for children.
The new streamlined process of divorce can save both parties significant legal expenses associated with proving fault and engaging in protracted litigation.
No Fault Divorce examples
The old system of attaching blame was not only costly and unwieldy, it could also be expensive both in terms money and emotional well-being, as these typical cases illustrate.
Case of lengthy litigation
John and Sarah’s marriage had irretrievably broken down, but the fault-based system forced them into a contentious battle over accusations of unreasonable behaviour to enable them to divorce as quickly as possible.
The prolonged litigation took an emotional toll on the both and hindered their ability to effectively co-parent their children. No Fault Divorce would have avoided these issues.
Emotional impact on children
Emma and David decided to separate amicably, but the old system required them to fabricate fault grounds to obtain a divorce.
The strain of maintaining this false narrative created tension and confusion for their children, highlighting the detrimental impact of the fault-based system.
Opposition to No Fault divorce
Critics argue that no-fault divorce may undermine the institution of marriage by making it easier to dissolve unions without sufficient consideration or effort to reconcile differences.
However, the introduction of no-fault divorce in the UK represents a significant shift towards a more compassionate and constructive approach to relationship dissolution.
By reducing conflict, supporting amicable resolutions, and prioritising the interests of children, No Fault Divorce has improved the emotional well-being of individuals and families involved.
While there are valid concerns to consider, the benefits of no-fault divorce, such as greater emotional well-being, improved co-parenting, and cost-effectiveness, are compelling arguments as to why this important legal change was needed.
One lawyer for both spouses
No Fault Divorce has been so effective in reducing the blame game that Resolution, which represents family solicitors in the UK, says it is now possible for one lawyer to represent both husband and wife.
This innovative model, called Resolution Together, enables solicitors to provide joint guidance and legal advice to couples going through divorce or separation.
Resolution says a one lawyer system aligns with the aims of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act to minimise unnecessary conflicts, benefiting all parties involved.
It believes the model is well-suited for couples who share the goal of reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution that meets their individual needs and, if applicable, the needs of their children.
Resolution is working closely with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) to ensure that Resolution Together complies with existing regulations.
Juliet Harvey, the National Chair of Resolution, emphasised the growing demand for new approaches in divorce proceedings. She said: “Clients increasingly expect, and sometimes demand, innovative methods that were not available in the past. The introduction of no-fault divorce and the option for joint applications have only heightened the demand for this type of approach. In fact, many firms are already implementing or considering the adoption of this approach.”
No Fault Divorce proving popular
No Fault Divorce proved extremely popular as soon as it came into effect in April, 2022.
The number of divorce applications immediately surged to its highest point in a decade. Statistics from April to June that year reveal a total of 33,234 applications, marking the highest figure in ten years.
It’s thought the reason for the spike was that people delayed their applications until the new system came into force.
The number of applications has since returned to more normal levels but the fact that so many couples waited for the new system before starting their divorce suggests that it’s the right approach.
It should be remembered that although the no fault approach minimises stress, it is still a complex legal process. Specialist advice from a family law solicitors is still important to ensure good child arrangements and a fair financial settlement.