Do I Have to Give a Reason to Get Divorced?

Marriage is about more than choosing someone to spend the rest of your life with—it’s a legally binding contract that requires an official process if you choose to end it. The same goes for civil partnerships.

Certain rules apply when getting a divorce or dissolving a partnership. For instance:

  • Your relationship must be irretrievably broken.
  • You must have been married for at least 12 months (otherwise, you’ll need to apply for separation or annulment).
  • Your marriage or civil partnership must be legally recognised.

But do you have to give a reason to get divorced in England? Learn more about the relatively new no-fault divorce law and what it means for you.

Do I Have to Give a Reason to Get Divorced or Dissolve a Civil Partnership?

Until recently, the law in England required anyone seeking a divorce or dissolution to demonstrate fault to the court. The five grounds for divorce a person could give included:

  1. Adultery:
  2. Unreasonable behaviour:
  3. Desertion:
  4. Separated for two years with consent:
  5. Five years separation:

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) however abolished the need to cite a reason for the breakdown and introduced a no-fault divorce. This landmark legislation, which took effect on 6 April 2022, removes the need to attribute fault or point out a single moment when the relationship fell apart.

The newly available no-fault divorce in England is intended to prevent perfectly amicable splits from becoming bitter and blame-ridden. Instead, couples no longer need to give a reason for wanting to divorce. The new law also allows couples to file for divorce jointly. These changes help ease the divorce, dissolution and separation process for the entire family.

How Do I End a Marriage or Civil Partnership without Giving a Reason?

Here are the steps for completing a no-fault divorce or dissolution in England.

Apply for a divorce

You can apply on your own (known as a sole application) or with your partner (known as a joint application). Whether you apply online or make your application by post, you’ll need to declare that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. The court must take this statement to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has, in fact, broken down permanently.

Check how your partner will be told

With sole applications, the court usually sends a copy to your partner, known as “serving” the divorce or dissolution papers. The default method of notification is via email. The court may also send a letter in the post.

You’ll need to serve the papers yourself if your partner doesn’t live in the UK or the court has tried and failed twice to deliver the papers. You can also ask to serve the papers yourself. Make sure your partner receives the papers within 28 days of making the application.

With joint applications, you and your partner will receive an email or letter saying the court has received your application and instructions for what to do next.

Wait for your partner to respond

If you make a sole application, the court will first accept it, followed by sending your partner a copy of the divorce application and “acknowledgement of service” form. Your partner must respond within 14 days, stating whether they agree with the divorce, intend to dispute it or object to the costs you’ve claimed.

Your partner can only dispute the divorce or dissolution if one of the following is true:

  • The marriage or civil partnership was invalid from the beginning.
  • Your partner argues the relationship has already ended through divorce or dissolution.
  • Your partner claims the court lacks jurisdiction to handle the divorce or dissolution.

If your partner doesn’t respond, you have the following options:

  • Seek legal advice from your solicitor.
  • Request the court bailiff to serve the application for a fee by submitting form D89. This requires you to know where your partner lives.
  • Ask the court to proceed as though your partner has received the application by submitting form D11. This is called “deemed service” and requires you to have evidence that your partner has received the application.
  • Ask the court to continue without a response if your partner is missing or presumed dead.

Apply for a conditional order

A minimum of 20 weeks after making your application, you can ask for a conditional order (previously called a decree nisi) confirming with the court that you still wish to proceed with the divorce. You can change from a joint to a sole applicant when you apply for a conditional order if you so choose.

Finalise the divorce

You must wait 43 days (six weeks and one day) to apply for a final order (previously called a decree absolute), which permanently ends your marriage or civil partnership. You should apply for a final order within 12 months of the court saying you can. Otherwise, you’ll need to explain why there was a delay, such as sorting out finances.

How Long Does it Take to End a Marriage or Civil Partnership?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act introduced a minimum period of 20 weeks from making the divorce application to applying for a conditional order. This 20-week period gives the couple time to meaningfully reflect on whether they wish to move forward. It also enables couples to cooperate and work out how to divide their money, what will happen to the family home and where the children will live. This is a great time to get legal advice from a family law specialist.

There is also a 43-day waiting period between the conditional order and the final order. As a result, a divorce or dissolution takes at least six months to complete, even under the most amicable, straightforward circumstances. This estimate is the same for joint and sole applications. The process might take longer if you need to sort out disagreements about money, the house or your kids.

How Much Does it Cost to End a Marriage or Civil Partnership?

A court fee of £593 is due when you file for divorce or dissolution. You can share this fee with your partner, along with any other legal costs, though it’s best to agree on this before you start the divorce or dissolution process. If you hire a solicitor, you’ll need to pay for their services as well.

If you can’t afford to pay the court fee, you might qualify for help if you receive certain Government benefits or have a low income. You should apply for help before making an application for divorce or dissolution.

If only you or your partner is eligible, that person should make a sole application. If you make a joint application, you can only get financial help if you’re both eligible. Learn about the requirements on GOV.UK.

Can My Divorce Claim be Denied?

No judge in England will refuse a divorce in today’s world. After all, it is well-accepted that some marriages shouldn’t last forever, even if there isn’t a single moment or clearly defined reason for ending the relationship. The introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act also makes it impossible for either partner to contest a divorce, except in the limited circumstances previously outlined.

Begin the Divorce Process

If you’re ready to end your marriage, the first step is to speak to an experienced solicitor at Parfitt Cresswell. Our family law specialists are qualified to offer detailed answers based on your situation and expert advice about where to go from here.

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