When Can I Obtain a No Fault Divorce?


In our family legal update ‘No Fault Divorces – Is it finally the end of the blame game?’ we set out the Government plans for removing the concept of ‘fault’ in Divorce applications. Since then the Government have moved forward with their plans for ‘no fault’ Divorces.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 June 2020 and therefore became an Act of Parliament on that date. The new law however has not been implemented yet. It is expected to be implemented possibly in Autumn 2021.

The removal of blame

The new Act removes the need to assign blame. It introduces the ability for both parties to a marriage to make a joint application for a Divorce or alternatively one party can still apply on their own. Currently in Divorce proceedings the applying party must show the marriage has irretrievably broken down by referring to a ‘fact’ such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery. The new process when it is implemented will allow the applying party (or parties) to simply confirm by way of a statement that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and there will be no need to rely on a ‘fact’ thereby removing blame. The opportunity to contest a Divorce will be removed. The implementation of the Act will be seen as a welcome change for many and it is hoped it will reduce unnecessary conflict.

The procedure

There is a new 20 week time period that will be introduced under the Act.  A party (or parties) who apply for a Divorce will have to wait a minimum of 20 weeks from making their Divorce application before applying for a Conditional Order (currently known as a Decree Nisi). The purpose of this minimum time period is to ensure the parties have enough time to reflect on whether they still wish to proceed with obtaining a Divorce and to try and agree financial and children matters.

Once the period of 20 weeks has expired, the party (or parties) can apply for a Conditional Order. Once the Conditional Order has been made the party (or parties) have to wait a minimum of 6 weeks before applying for the Final Order (currently known as a Decree Absolute).  This is to allow a further period of reflection.  The whole process will therefore take a minimum of 26 weeks from applying for the Divorce to obtaining a Final Order. It is not likely therefore to be quicker than the current procedure but hopefully the process will enable parties to focus on reaching a resolution of financial and children matters as quickly as possible.

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It is always important to seek advice from an experienced family law specialist to discuss your circumstances and consider the different options available to you.

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Please note the above is for information purposes only and is intended to be a short summary.  It should not be treated as a comprehensive guide and should not be acted on without qualified legal advice.