Why no-fault divorce is shaking up the process for the better

The family law sector is set to face its biggest shake-up in decades with the ‘no fault divorce’ becoming law from April 2022.

Separated couples can now follow a much simpler process
Separated couples can now follow a much simpler process

Separated couples will now be able to follow a much simpler process, aimed at avoiding bitterness and conflict and smoothing the waters towards a more amicable break-up.

Family law practitioners have argued for many years that the current divorce process was archaic and didn’t reflect how many separations were managed and processed in the 21st century. The UK Government has responded by bringing the no-fault divorce into UK law and ending the pursuit of the blame game.

What is the reason for creating a no-fault divorce?

The changes aim to avoid the bitterness and conflict that can come with a separation

Relationships can be complex, chiefly because everybody is different. A permanent separation can be liberating for both parties and can be amicably agreed upon, but the divorce process has not always helped maintain that state of calm cooperation.

Previously, a divorcing couple have had to show evidence that a marriage has “irretrievably broken down” by the petitioner claiming that one or more of five facts have taken place, including adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. Separation for a continuous period of two years if both parties agree to the divorce, and separation for a continuous period of five years, even if one party refuses to consent to the divorce, were the other two options.

In other words, the petitioner has to lay the blame for the separation at the hands of their spouse – often resulting in bad feeling, which can lead to a lack of cooperation and create antagonism where previously there was none.

Now, a no-fault divorce can be processed without one of these five facts being cited as the reason. Ultimately, it is designed to allow separating couples to concentrate on the key issues. These include ensuring children involved in the separation are suitably cared for, both now and in the future, and that they are protected from unnecessary fallout.

How does a no-fault divorce work?

Now one or both parties can apply together to the courts for a divorce order. An application for a divorce order must include a statement to confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

After this, the couple are allowed a period of reflection, which gives them time and space for a minimum period of 20 weeks to consider the situation and to confirm divorce is still something they want to proceed with.

What was previously called the ‘decree nisi’ is now a ‘conditional order’, which can only be processed once the estranged couple have re-confirmed their wish to separate. The current period of six weeks and one day between this and the final order (previously the decree absolute) is still in place.

Why no-fault divorce is a better way for couples to separate

Divorce can be stressful and complex and at a sad and reflective time, the last thing many people need is friction and arguments while also having to make cold, calculated decisions about loved ones, money and valued possessions. The aim of no-fault divorce is to give the separating couple the best possible chance of avoiding acrimony, particularly for the benefit of any children involved.

Yorkshire-based law firm Ison Harrison have a large family law department with legal professionals who have long advocated for the no-fault divorce to replace the outdated process previously in place.

“This long overdue development allows divorcing couples to start their divorces on an amicable footing, by eliminating the need to formally express blame within the application to the court,” says Sarah Laughey, Director and Head of Family Law at Ison Harrison.

Ison Harrison are experienced in helping many separating couples through the divorce process and are therefore well-placed to see how the new no fault divorce process better reflects the mood in many cases.

“Starting the process off with amicable intentions should help spouses focus on such things as the children’s arrangements and the division of their finances,” adds Sarah.

Ultimately, the no-fault divorce creates a scenario where there is a better chance of avoiding bitterness and recrimination, and where the cordial relations the separating couple wanted to maintain have the best chance of surviving. And for the first time in decades, thankfully, this reflects much of society today.

For help and advice with a no-fault divorce, call 03332 228 999 or email [email protected]

Visit the Ison Harrison website for more information at www.isonharrison.co.uk