Family and children

Marriage laws enter 21st century with ‘no-fault’ divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act has today come into force, meaning divorcing couples are no longer required to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage.

‘No-fault’ divorce has been delayed twice. First in autumn and then in summer 2021, as the UK government sought to develop and test the digital arm of the service.

“We are delighted that the divorce system – unchanged for more than 50 years – will finally be modernised to reflect the society we live in,” said Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 102,438 opposite sex and 1,154 same sex couples divorced in England and Wales in 2020.*

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “From today, separating couples won’t have to prove a fault-based fact against their ex-partner or spend years still married to obtain a divorce, exacerbating tensions.

“‘No-fault’ divorce will cut unnecessary conflict from the separation process – allowing couples to move on amicably.

“This divorce reform will bring our marriage laws into the 21st century and ensure that, in the future, separating couples and their children do not suffer unnecessary conflict.”

Notes to editors

The five grounds for divorce were: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent and five years’ separation, with no consent necessary.

Find out more about getting a divorce

Read more about no-fault divorce

Separating couples can now file a joint application for divorce (previously only one person could file for divorce)

* Read the ONS’ data for England and Wales

Read about the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act

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