New laws being introduced on April 6, 2022 will revolutionise how people are able to obtain a divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership in England and Wales.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will introduce a new divorce or dissolution process, which is the first reform to divorce laws in this county for almost 50 years. It brings in some major changes for couples wanting to legally formalise their parting by simplifying the process and ending the current ‘blame game’ which can be associated with divorce.

Louise Daniel, family law specialist at Woodcocks Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors, explores the new no-fault divorce laws and how the new more amicable process will help ensure couples aren’t trapped in loveless marriages.

The main changes

A ‘no-fault’ divorce will replace the current system, where at present, to obtain a divorce or dissolution, the person starting the process must confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This must be confirmed via one of the five grounds for divorce/dissolution:

  • the other party’s adultery (this option is not available for civil partners)
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • separation after two years, where both parties consent to the divorce
  • separation after five years, where the agreement of the other party is not necessary
  • desertion, where two years should have passed before a case can be started.

A major feature of the new no-fault system is that the divorce will not have blame or fault associated to either individual within the process.

Once the changes come into force, the option to contest a divorce is no longer available. Once the divorce process has been started, there will be a compulsory 20-week notice period, known as a ‘period of reflection’ or cooling off period, within which time many of the issues associated with divorce – for example finances or children – can also be resolved.

The terminology will also change. There is no longer a petitioner – the person who starts the proceedings – as there will instead be an applicant. A decree nisi will no longer exist and this will become the conditional order, while the decree absolute will now be known as the final order.

The new process

To start an application under the new process, the first step is for one or both parties to prepare a statement to the court which confirms their marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, and there is no possibility of a reconciliation.

The court will at that point recognise that a divorce or civil partnership is being sought, but keep in mind the new law removes the previously available option for one party to contest the divorce.

The update creates a less hostile situation by enabling a joint divorce application to be made by the separating couple, if this can be agreed, rather than requiring a two-year separation period to have elapsed prior to a divorce petition being presented to the court by consent. This also means divorces and dissolutions can now been obtained much more easily and finalised more quickly.

After 20 weeks – to allow time for the additional practical arrangements associated with divorce to be made – the conditional order will be granted, and after a further six weeks the final order can be obtained.

A more amicable split

By removing the need to evidence the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, which is currently the only ground to obtain a divorce, the long-awaited new no fault divorce law will make the whole divorce process much more amicable and reduce hostility between separating couples by avoiding the potential confrontations which are possible within the current process.

This will undoubtedly be of benefit to any children from the relationship, while the more amicable process will also aid a far more cost-effective divorce or dissolution process.

Louise Daniel is an Associate Solicitor based at WHN Solicitors’ Haslingden office. Named on the Family Law Panel, Louise has strong expertise in all areas of family law, with specialisms in divorce, separation and financial cases, pre and post-nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, children cases and non-molestation orders.

Louise is also a member of Resolution and is committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.

If you need help regarding divorce, our specialist and empathetic solicitors are here to help. Please contact Louise on 01706 213356 or email