No-fault divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the divorce process to remove the concept of fault (also known as 'no-fault divorce').

Many legal professionals felt that divorce law was out of date, particularly following Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed in June 2020 and came into force on 6 April 2022.

From 6 April, the new legislation:

  • replaces the ‘five grounds’ and allows couples to divorce without assigning fault
  • removes the possibility of contesting the divorce
  • introduces an option for a joint application
  • makes sure language is in plain English, for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order

These changes also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Our view

We supported legislation to introduce no-fault divorce.

No-fault divorce will reduce conflict, allowing couples to focus on important issues like children, property and finances.

We also supported:

  • joint petitions
  • the principle of a divorce based on the statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage

We believe the legislation could be clearer, fairer and more accessible by reviewing:

  • the notice period – it should start when a partner receives their spouse’s divorce application (date of service) rather than from the start of proceedings (when one spouse applies for divorce)
  • financial proceedings – if financial proceedings (Form A) have started, no final order should be granted until a financial order has been made if either party might suffer financial prejudice by a final decree before the final financial settlement
  • court fee costs – the new online divorce system will cut administration costs for the courts, so this should be reflected in application fees
  • the period of reflection – there should be a three-month reflection period at the beginning of the divorce proceedings to allow separating couples time to consider their situation and get the legal advice they need. Domestic violence applications or applications that relate to children in a divorce should be available during this reflection period

The government should also reintroduce legal aid for early advice to support divorcing couples and help them understand their financial responsibilities and the needs of their children.

We believe the current court fee of £593 for divorce applications is too high and discriminates against those less able to afford it.

Court fees should be reduced to reflect the fact that the new process will require less administration.

Read the consultation on the MoJ website, our response and the government response.

What this means for solicitors

The changes should simplify current practices and reduce conflict between couples.

Although the act received royal assent in June 2020, the reforms came into force on 6 April 2022.

What we're doing

Get involved

The MoJ’s consultation is now closed. If you would like to get involved in our work on this topic you can find out more about our Family Law Committee.

Get involved in our early advice campaign.

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