No fault divorce
What is no-fault divorce?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into effect in April 2022. It has been the biggest reform of divorce law in England and Wales in 50 years. In essence, it removes the requirement to establish one of the five “facts” (contained in The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973) to establish irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and now allows married couples to divorce without assigning blame or having to rely on one of the five “facts” before applying for the marriage to be dissolved. This has become known as the “no-fault divorce”.
Is it now easier to get a divorce?
The previous law meant that couples who wanted to divorce on non-contentious grounds had to be separated for a minimum of two years. The new law makes the process simpler and less contentious. The law also removes the possibility of defending a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership.
How does it work?
For the first time, one or both parties may make a divorce application by confirming that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. The Court must take this statement at face value and will not look into whether this has been proven. Once the Court has processed the application, the parties must wait 20 weeks before progressing to the next stage. After 20 weeks, couples can apply for a ‘conditional order’, previously known as a ‘decree nisi’. Six weeks after the conditional order date, the couple may apply for a ‘final order’, formerly the ‘decree absolute’.
What about finances?
The divorce application does not automatically address and settle the matrimonial finances or child arrangements so these must be handled separately. A further court order, known as a ‘financial remedy order’ is needed.
Does the new law mean I don’t need a solicitor?
Although the process of securing a divorce has been made less contentious, the associated negotiating over finances and children is becoming an increasing challenge and, in some cases, is overlooked entirely through lack of knowledge.
Some people are attempting to manage the process themselves, turning to online help or untrained mediators, only to discover later that they may have agreed financial or childcare outcomes that leave them at a significant disadvantage, when professional advice and representation may have reached a fairer outcome.
By failing to address financial remedy properly and effectively couples are leaving themselves open to potential claims months or years later ‘out of the blue’ or creating messy and costly legal and financial situations through ignorance of the law. Joint financial assets and/or joint debts can be left unresolved, pension assets can be left exposed to later claims and other capital or income issues can be simply left in an entirely unsatisfactory and often a potentially very costly state. Couples may also overlook the importance of pension sharing, particularly where a primary caregiver to children may not have been able to acquire their own pension pot.
Where to find help?
A friendly and compassionate family team at Berry and Lamberts can explain and guide you through legal matters relating to divorce, dissolution and finances. they offer a one-hour fixed fee appointment for £100 + VAT which gives you the opportunity to talk through your matter, get professional legal advice and consider your options. Please get in touch at