How does No Fault Divorce work in the UK?

How does No Fault Divorce work in the UK?

On April 6, 2022, “No Fault Divorce” came into effect in England and Wales. This means that couples are now able to get divorced without one partner being blamed. Additionally, it means that in most cases it is no longer possible to contest a divorce. The No Fault Divorce change also applies to civil partnership dissolution.

To clarify, let’s compare the old system to that of the new.

Old Process

Under the previous law, an applicant, known as the petitioner, had to convince the court that their marriage or civil partnership had irretrievably broken down by proving one of five grounds.

The petitioner would have to prove that, either:

1. The parties had lived separately for 2 years, and the other party would have to consent to the divorce proceeding on this basis

2. The other party had committed adultery

3. The other party had behaved unreasonably

4. The other party had deserted the petitioner for a period of two years

5. The parties had been separated for five years (in which case the consent of the other party was not required).

Why did the law change?

It had been felt by many legal professionals for some time that our divorce law was out of date. This was highlighted in 2018 by the case of Owens v Owens. In this case, which went to the court of appeal, Mrs Owens was denied a grant of a divorce based on her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. The husband had contested the divorce, and the judge agreed that because the particulars of his behaviour as presented by Mrs Owens solicitors were mild, that they did not sufficiently make out the proof required. As family lawyers had, for years, used the practice of “mild” particulars to try to reduce conflict for families where at all possible, the case caused an uproar.

As a result of much campaigning, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which aimed to reform the divorce process to remove the concept of fault, was presented to parliament.

Those who argued against no fault divorce believed that making divorce easier may damage the commitment and sanctity of marriage and may possibly decrease the number of couples working through difficulties to save their marriage or commitment.

Baroness Hale, former President of the Supreme Court, was an advocate for the introduction of no-fault divorce throughout its time of debate. Believing that relationships sometimes simply fail, she advocated that this new regulation could ease stress and pain for couples seeking divorce. It was also thought by many that laying blame on one individual may cause more dissention and not encourage a co-operative approach to find solutions to the issues that arise as a result of a marital breakdown.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act was passed in June 2020 and came into force on 6 April 2022.

So what are the changes brought about by the new law.

Divorce Granted Without One Person Blaming Another

The new law removes fault or blame from the divorce or civil partnership process completely. With the new divorce law, a couple can divorce without needing to cite one of the previously required five reasons for divorce.

Apply for Divorce Jointly

With no blame divorce being a part of the new law, couples can now file a joint application. It is, however, still possible for one person to apply for divorce or dissolution. If filing jointly, the individuals will be referred to as “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2.” If filing as an individual, the person filing the claim is the “applicant” and the other party is the “respondent.”

Updated Terminology

As the world progresses, terminologies must also be updated. As a result, “Applicant” is now the term used for the person applying for divorce and replaces the word “petitioner.” “Decree Nisi” is now referred to as a conditional order. “Decree absolute” is now referred to as the final order.

Updated Term


Previously used term


Person filing claim for divorce



2nd party in marriage or civil partnership


Conditional Order

The first stage when the court confirms that the paperwork is approved and that the divorce can go ahead once an application is made in 6 weeks and one day

Decree Nisi

Final Order

The final document proving you are divorced, or your civil partnership has ended. This will be provided to you after you apply for this at the end of the process.

Decree Absolute

26 Week Minimum Timeframe

With a no blame divorce, there was some concern that changes would allow a quick and easy divorce for couples rather than putting in the work of trying to improve the relationship. A designated 20 weeks after the application is issued allows for a “period of reflection” in case couples want to work to reach restitution rather than proceeding with divorce or dissolution. The final order can be applied for 6 weeks and one day after the conditional order

No Contest Divorce

A major change from the previous divorce or dissolution system is that, under the new divorce and no blame system, a divorce or civil partnership dissolution can only be contested based on very limited grounds such as jurisdiction. You should seek advice from an experienced legal professional if you want to consider this.

Finances and Dependent Children

It is best to consider how to divide your finances at the time of the divorce. Without a detailed agreement that has been sealed by a Judge, one person could make a financial claim even after the divorce or dissolution has ended. Prior to finalising divorce, couples should consider:

  • The division of their finances
  • Whether there should be maintenance payments (if necessary)
  • Consider arrangements for their children such as where they will live and how much time they will spend with each party

Get legal support at Parfitt Cresswell

The legal professionals at Parfitt Cresswell are committed to do all they can to help you find the best possible solutions to all of the issues that arise. With 9 offices across the South East of England, Parfitt Cresswell has an office near you. Remember, that although you may be able to divorce without legal representation it is still vitally important to have professional legal help and support for all the other matters that need to be resolved on a separation and divorce. Contact the legal professionals of Parfitt Cresswell today.


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