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No fault divorce - what is it and what have we learnt?

View profile for Shelley Cumbers
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No fault divorce - what is it and what have we learnt?

On 6 April 2022, family lawyers across England and Wales witnessed one of the biggest changes in divorce law this country has seen in the last 50 years, with the introduction of no fault divorce law.

What is No fault divorce?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has reformed the law on divorce, dissolution and separation, allowing couples to divorce or end their civil partnership without the need to apportion blame or rely on a period of separation. 

Instead, all that is now required is a simple statement that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.

In addition, for the first time, it is now open to couples to apply for a divorce or dissolution by way of a joint application. Whilst it is still open to make a sole application, the new law enables couples to apply together in their joint names if they choose and agree to. 

Why is there now such a thing as No Fault Divorce?

The change in divorce law comes after many years of campaigning, most notably by Resolution – a nationwide group of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way and who believe that a non-confrontational approach to family law issues produces better outcomes for separating families and their children. 

Campaigners for reform believed divorce law should be changed to allow couples to separate without having to allege fault or having to wait at least two years before they could divorce. 

It was widely considered that the law, prior to 6 April 2022, created unnecessary conflict for separating families and made it much more difficult for couples to reach amicable agreements on issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship, including the financial and children arrangements. 

How our no fault divorce solicitors can help you

Here at Birkett Long, all our family lawyers are members of Resolution, with many holding specialist accreditations in various aspects of family law such as complex financial and property matters, children law and domestic abuse. 

Across all our offices we have witnessed the conflict the old law often created.  

Since 6 April 2022, we have assisted many clients in applying for a no fault divorce, either on a sole named or joint named basis. For many, the divorce applications had been put on hold until the new law was introduced.  

So far, the new court systems put in place to deal with the no fault applications appear to be working well and we are finding that it currently takes around two weeks for a no fault divorce application to be processed by the court and issued under the online digital platform. 

How do you deal with financial issues with no fault divorce?

As with the old law, we still find that many divorcing couples are unaware of the financial issues which need to be dealt with alongside the no fault divorce. The divorce itself is one part of the separation process. 

Couples still need to address the financial claims they have against one another on divorce or dissolution for property, lump sums, maintenance and pensions. These claims are not covered under the no fault divorce process which simply dissolves the marriage or civil partnership.

How long will no fault divorce take?

Whilst it is now possible to obtain a no fault divorce in as little as 6–8 months, if a couple cannot amicably agree how to resolve their financial claims, or if their finances are complicated, the time it takes to sort out those issues can exceed that timescale. 

We are also still finding it necessary to advise separating couples of the need to ensure that any agreement they reach is properly recorded as a court order alongside their divorce or dissolution proceedings and to ensure the financial settlement is made legally binding and enforceable on them both. 

Without a financial court order in place, both parties’ claims will normally remain open. This is risky as it means either party can potentially make a financial application, long after the divorce or dissolution proceedings are concluded and where assets acquired after the separation may be considered.  

Do you need advice about divorce, civil partnership dissolution or separation?

If you have applied for a no fault divorce in the last month or plan to do so in the future and would like advice on any of the issues raised in this blog, please get in touch. Shelley Cumbers would be more than happy to discuss matters with you. Please contact her on 01206 217378 or shelley.cumbers@birkettlong.co.uk.

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