How to get a no fault divorce
The no fault divorce came into effect on 6th April 2022 in England and Wales and replaced the previous divorce system. It applies to both marriages and civil partnerships. Provided you’ve been married for more than a year and are domiciled in England or Wales, then you can apply for a no fault divorce, even if you were married overseas or are not a British citizen.
To apply for a no fault divorce:
- One or both parties complete an application to give notice that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
- After a 20-week “reflection period”, if the applicant(s) decide that they wish to proceed with the divorce, they can apply to the court for a Conditional Order.
- Six weeks after the Conditional Order has been granted by the court, the applicant(s) confirm they would like the marriage to end, and the court can make a Final Order.
Although it seems straightforward on paper, getting a divorce is a significant decision that can have wide-reaching implications for you and your family. Seek advice from a specialist family lawyer to support you through the process and help you to achieve the best possible outcome.
What is a no fault divorce?
The no fault divorce requires the applicant to confirm that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in their marriage or civil partnership. It removes the need for the applicant to provide evidence that they have either been separated from their former spouse for at least two years or that their former spouse’s “conduct” caused the marriage to break down.
What is the difference between a no fault divorce and a regular divorce?
Until the changes introduced in 2022, divorce proceedings had not changed since 1973 and required you to show one of the following:
- Your spouse had committed adultery.
- Your spouse had conducted themselves in a way that meant it was unreasonable to expect you to live with them any longer.
- You’d been separated for at least two years and the other person agreed to divorce.
- You’d been separated for at least five years or
- Your spouse had deserted you for at least two years.
The reasons cited for seeking a divorce could often lead to confrontation, making an already emotionally charged situation even more challenging to resolve.
The no fault divorce removes the need to evidence one of these reasons for a divorce. Instead, you, either individually or jointly with your spouse, provide a statement to confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
In addition, the language used in divorce proceedings has been updated:
- The “divorce petition” is now known as an “application”.
- The “divorce petitioner” is an “applicant”.
- The “Decree Nisi” is now the “Conditional Order” and
- The “Decree Absolute” is now the “Final Order”.
The no fault divorce introduces a 20-week “reflection period” and includes a six-week “cooling off period”, which enables the couple to take time to consider if divorce is the right path for them. It now takes a minimum of six months to finalise a divorce.
The no fault divorce process, in detail
Consult a family law solicitor
A divorce is a life-changing event, so it’s essential to seek expert advice to ensure you’re fully aware of your rights and entitlements. A family law solicitor can not only explain the no fault divorce process to you but can also help you to take into account the legal and practical issues, such as any children involved, marital assets, tax implications, and even any family pets.
Start an application
An application for divorce can be made online or via a paper form by one party individually, or both parties jointly. The application includes a statement that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Your family law solicitor will help you draft the required documents for the court.
Wait for court issued papers
Once lodged with the court, your application will be processed. Under no fault divorce law, the court must accept your statement and make a divorce order. This is different from the old system, where a judge could refuse to approve the divorce petition.
This step is known as the court “issuing” your divorce and means that your case is added to the court system and given a court reference. The issued papers will then be returned.
Acknowledgment of receipt of court papers
Upon issuance of the papers by the court, one of two things will happen:
- If you applied jointly with your spouse, then you will both complete an acknowledgement of receipt of the court papers or
- If you applied alone, then your spouse will be sent the court-issued papers and asked to return an acknowledgement of service to the court within 14 days.
In the latter case, your spouse has the option to dispute the divorce. However, under the no-fault divorce system, the court accepts only limited reasons for disputing the divorce, such as the marriage has already been dissolved or was invalid.
If your spouse fails to return the acknowledgment of service within the timeframe, then the divorce will proceed as an “undefended divorce”, which means that the other party is not trying to stop the divorce from taking place.
20 week reflection period
Following the acknowledgment of service, a 20-week reflection period will begin. This time allows the couple time to agree on any practical arrangements, such as children or financial affairs, as well as time to adjust to their new circumstances.
Applying for a divorce is not the same as the separation of your marital assets or childcare arrangements. Usually, these agreements are achieved in parallel to the divorce proceedings, which can then be transferred to a court order. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, then you may need to issue “ancillary relief” for the court to determine how financial assets should be divided.
The reflection period is required to last a minimum of 20 weeks but can last longer to allow you sufficient time to resolve practical matters.
Conditional Order (Decree Nisi)
After the reflection period has elapsed, you (either alone or jointly with your spouse) give notice to confirm that you wish to proceed with the divorce, if this is the case. The court can then make a Conditional Order (formerly, the Decree Nisi), which confirms that the court is satisfied that there is no legal reason to prevent your divorce.
6 week cooling off period
A six-week “cooling off period” now ensues, which allows you a final period of time to consider whether you really do want to dissolve your marriage. The “cooling off period” remains from the previous divorce system.
Final Order (Decree Absolute)
After the final “cooling off period”, you can apply for your Final Order (previously, the Decree Absolute). Once the court has granted the Final Order, your divorce is finalised, and your marriage is legally dissolved.
Making the decision to divorce is never easy and often impacts many aspects of your life, from children and pets to finances. Our family law team at Waldrons is here to help you understand the divorce process and provide guidance every step of the way, helping you to achieve the best possible outcomes for you.
Whether you’re contemplating divorce or simply want some preliminary information, we can help. Contact us today for more information.
More information on Divorce and Separation
Back to all Insights
Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Alka Wood who is a Solicitor