no-fault divorce legislation

In April 2022, divorce laws in England and Wales were overhauled for the first time in 50 years with the introduction of no-fault divorce legislation. Louise Daniel from our family law team looks at how this has created an increase in the volume of divorce applications filed and how the new legislation simplifies and speeds up the divorce process.

Towards the end of 2022 divorce applications reached their highest ever rate in a decade after the introduction of no-fault divorce legislation.

The changes now mean there is no need to apportion blame or fault to one spouse as to the reason why the marriage or civil partnership has broken down.

Data from the Ministry of Justice confirms that between April and June 2022 there were 33,566 new divorce applications, with the vast majority issued by sole applicants, under the new no-fault legislation.

This is the highest number of applications since the first quarter of 2012 – more than a decade ago, and up 22 per cent from the same period in 2021.

What are the recent changes to divorce law?

In respect of applying for divorce, the new law allows either a sole or a joint application. In sole applications, the recipient spouse can no longer contest a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

The new law also introduces a new minimum waiting period of 20 weeks to enable parties time to reflect and, if relevant, attempt to resolve outstanding financial and children’s issues.

Some terminology has changed under the new law – there are no longer divorce petitions, it is called a divorce application, and the orders made within the case previously called the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute have been replaced by a Conditional Order and Final Order.

Before the new no-fault divorce law was introduced, parties in most cases had to apportion blame for the reason why the marriage had broken down. If they did not wish to indicate their marriage had broken down due to adultery or due to the unreasonable behaviour of their spouse, parties had to wait and petition under either a two-year with consent of the other party basis, or five-year separation approach.

Therefore, the above periods of time had to pass, post separation, before a divorce could be commenced.  This is no longer the case with the introduction of no-fault divorce.

How has the new law changed the process for divorcing couples?

For couples choosing to divorce, the process is simpler under the new procedure, due to the removal of the requirement to ‘blame’ one party, which in most cases, was cited under the old law.

Under the new legislation the process is likely to be concluded within six months, again more quickly than many cases concluded under the old law. This in turn can often keep costs relatively low.

With digital divorce now becoming the norm, divorce applications are now submitted online, which makes getting divorce a more efficient process and enables divorces to be finalised faster.

Financial considerations that must be made

Anyone considering a divorce will need to consider the required payment of the court fee which currently stands at £593. There is fee exemption scheme available if the applicant is on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits which can reduce or remove the requirement for the individual to pay this fee.

Most couples, at the time of divorce, also choose to resolve financial matters and obtain an order confirming there should be a clean financial break between them.

Without such an order in place, even after divorce, financial applications can still be made by the divorced parties, and there is no time limit to such applications. The new 20-week waiting period enables parties to focus on this during the standard divorce period.

Louise Daniel has strong expertise in all areas of family law. Her specialisms include divorce, separation, and financial cases. If you are considering separation or divorce and wish to seek legal advice, please contact Louise on 01706 213 356 or by email: