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No-Fault Divorce comes into effect 6th April 2022

This long awaited change comes into effect on 6th April 2022 and already I'm being asked about it by clients.

A number of mediators have been frustrated by the current process for many years. It has put some clients in a very difficult situation with a pressure to heap blame when they might prefer not to. Some clients express that despite all the hurt and grief that accompanies relationship break down, they just want to move forward without casting blame which can inflame the situation.

What are the key changes?

Joint Application

One key change is that divorce no longer has to be initiated by one partner alone. A couple can make a joint application for the first time.

Terms used

The legal terminology can be confusing and the first stage - Decree Nisi will be changed to "Conditional Order" and the last stage - Decree Absolute will change to "Final Order", terms that are hopefully a little more self-explanatory.

It might take longer

20 week minimum cooling off period between the "Initial Application" and the "Conditional Order". This means that the absolute minimum timescale will be 6 months plus whereas currently it is possible to complete the process in 3-4 months.

No blame option

The current grounds for divorce will be replaced by a single mechanism. All that will be required is for at least one spouse to provide a legal statement to say that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This statement counts as conclusive evidence and cannot be contested.

This is likely to impact cases where only one party wants, or accepts that the marriage is over. It is hoped that this will help couples seek a more amicable separation.

It will be interesting to learn more about these changes and see how they work for clients, some of whom have been waiting for this change to start legal proceedings.

Sarah England, GLM


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