No Fault Divorce

New UK No Fault Divorce Rules Explained

From April 2022, separating couples will be able to get a divorce without one partner having to lay blame on the other. We look at the significance of the new rules and explain how no-fault divorce will work in England and Wales. The change will also apply to civil partnership dissolution.

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What is no fault divorce?

Prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce when someone filed for divorce if they hadn’t been separated for at least two years, they had to ‘blame’ the other party for the breakdown of the marriage. They did this by citing either adultery or the behaviour of the other to prove that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 removed the requirement for fault or blame from the divorce process. The petition only has to state that there has been an irretrievable breakdown – no proof is required. As long as both parties agree to get divorced, the judge will grant the application without considering the reasons.

Why was the law changed?

The law was changed because it was outdated and can cause arguments at the outset. Often in divorce cases, the couple has simply drifted apart and there is no one to blame. Many believe that it is inappropriate for one partner to have to conjure up examples of unreasonable behaviour when none exist, simply to satisfy the court. This can create conflict from the get-go.

There have also been cases in the past where people have been forced to remain married for a period of time because they were not able to establish one of the five facts or because they did not wish to rely on the behaviour of the other. While cases like this are fortunately very rare, they do raise moral questions about whether anyone, including an ex-partner or a judge, should have the right to keep someone in a marriage they no longer wish to be part of.

 

No Fault Divorce FAQs

How will no-fault divorce work?

When the no-fault divorce rules come into effect, the divorce process will look a little different. The most significant changes are:

  • Couples will be able to apply for a divorce together. Under current rules, one spouse (the petitioner) must start the divorce and the other spouse (the respondent) must respond to it. Soon, the couple will be able to apply jointly for a Divorce Order.
  • It will no longer be possible to contest that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This means that if the other spouse wishes to challenge the divorce, their options are much more limited.
  • The divorce language is being updated, for example:
  • ‘Decree Nisi’ will become a ‘Conditional Order’
  • ‘Decree Absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’
  • There will be an additional wait period. There is a new 20-week wait period from the date of the divorce application to when the Conditional Order can be made. This is intended to give couples a cooling off period to try and save the relationship before committing to a divorce.

 

What is not being changed?

The no-fault divorce process will still have the two key stages of decree nisi and decree absolute, although they will now be called ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Final Order.’ There will still be a minimum six week period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order will discuss your court options.

What are the benefits of a no fault divorce?

For separating couples, a no-fault divorce means:

  • A more streamlined and straightforward divorce process
  • No need for reasons or blame
  • The parties can act together instead of being on opposite sides (in relation to the divorce only, not in respect of the associated financial agreement)
  • Lower conflict, stress and costs

Will there be any problems with a no fault divorce?

For most couples, the ability to divorce without pointing the finger of blame will be a welcome step. However, it is not likely to be quicker than the current system. The new 20-week wait period means that your divorce will still take around 6 months, and you will still benefit from the support of a skilled family lawyer to guide you through the process.

Where finances are contested by parties the Court will impose a financial remedy order. 

Should you wait for a no-fault divorce?

Even under current rules, most divorces go through without a hitch. A good family lawyer will be able to help you file a petition that meets the court’s test and in the vast majority of cases, it is possible to agree on the wording with your partner. There is no guarantee that the law will in fact be implemented in Spring next year. It has already been delayed once.

What is a conditional order?

A conditional order is a legal document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce or dissolve a civil partnership.

Applying for a conditional order is the first stage of obtaining a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. Once you have obtained the conditional order, you can apply for the final order.

What is a final order?

The final order is the document that ends a divorce or civil partnership. It means the parties are free to enter into another marriage or civil partnership.

To apply for the final order you just need to complete and sign the relevant form and send it to the court office after the six week period of reflection.

The final order will be read out in court, but neither party is usually required to attend the hearing.

Owens v Owens

The impetus for no-fault divorce increased with the case of Owens v Owens in 2018.

Mr & Mrs Owens married in 1978 and by 2012 they had grown apart. Three years later Mrs Owens moved out of the matrimonial home and filed for divorce three months later.

Under the existing legislation Mrs Owens was forced to blame Mr Owen’s unreasonable behaviour for the split. However, Mr Owen’s argued that his behaviour had not been unreasonable

Mrs Owens failed to persuade the Court that Mr Owen’s behaviour was unreasonable.

Support and guidance through no-fault divorces

Here at Osbornes, we understand that a divorce is an extremely difficult time in a person’s life, and we are committed to giving you all the support you need as you move into this next chapter whether it be now under the current rules or when the new rules come into play.

Speak to a lawyer about no fault divorce

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you







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    • Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.

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    • "Lisa Pepper was recommended to me as non-nonsense and able to help me with a difficult and confrontational divorce. She more than lived up to that – she was practical, collected and always available with a clear opinion and suggestions of how to move forwards. She also was open and helpful about costs and how to mitigate them"

      Legal 500 2021

    • "It has a strong and experienced team of solicitors who don’t take bad points, work sensibly to get a settlement and who you can always pick up the phone and speak to. They are good lawyers and know the strengths and weaknesses of their clients’ cases. They don’t posture and always pursue their clients cases appropriately. "

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    • "Mark Freedman is a very capable lawyer, renowned for not being a pushover and pushing his clients’ cases as much as he can, but will always talk sensibly about settlement. He is among the best – tenacious, good judgment and tactically aware."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Mark Freedman is a dynamic and highly experienced family lawyer who fights extremely hard for his clients and is always in their corner, thus ensuring their loyalty and confidence. In a trial you would always want him on your side."

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    • "Her mediation practice is exceptional; she is also a great solicitor and has a breadth of skill which is really useful."

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    • "Osbornes is pre-eminent for family law in North London. Mark Freedman is a real rainmaker. He is an excellent lawyer and has a top-notch practice"

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      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman is a serious player. A fearless family law litigator, who protects his clients’ interests passionately.

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Breadth of knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile is what makes it stand out. Mark Freedman – devoted to his clients

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from the dissolution of civil partnerships.

      Chambers UK

    • Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues. Sources praise the "tenacity and common sense" he brings to challenging disputes.

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark is very experienced, competent, good with clients and takes a sensible approach to cases. He knows exactly what he's doing."

      Chambers & Partners Directory 2020, Mark Freedman

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    • "The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."

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    • "Mark Freedman is a real heavyweight litigator who has dealt with some very significant cases."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman boxes clever, keeps his powder dry and when it comes to the end game he negotiates a really good deal."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman has a specific focus on high-net-worth divorces and finance cases where there are overseas assets and trusts."

      The Legal 500

    • "Lisa Pepper somehow manages to get parties to settle on matters where there isn’t much hope to start out with."

      The Legal 500

    • "Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark Freedman draws acclaim for his work in high net worth divorce cases, including those involving company structures, family trusts and overseas assets."

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    • "He never gives up. He fights for you to the end and has boundless energy."

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    • Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from divorces. She is additionally skilled in Schedule 1 and other child arrangement matters.

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    • Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues.

      Chambers UK 2023

    • "Andrew Watson is respected and tenacious in matrimonial finance. You would want him on your team."

      Legal 500 2023

    • "David Leadercrammer is such an experienced wonderful lawyer who you would want on the other side of your case. He’s sensible, pragmatic and hugely experienced in money and children cases."

      Legal 500 2023

    • “Mark Freedman represents high net worth clients in complex financial disputes. Sources say that “he’s a determined negotiator who’ll always do the very best for his clients.”

      Chambers UK

    • “Mark Freedman is considered a ‘brilliant lawyer’ and a ‘great tactician’ who ‘will absolutely fight tooth and nail for his clients’. He is noted for his expertise in private children work and high-value divorces.”

      Chambers UK

    • "Exceptional value for money. Highly competent and reasonably priced. One of the best in the field."

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    • "Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases".

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    • Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.

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    • "Lisa Pepper was recommended to me as non-nonsense and able to help me with a difficult and confrontational divorce. She more than lived up to that – she was practical, collected and always available with a clear opinion and suggestions of how to move forwards. She also was open and helpful about costs and how to mitigate them"

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      Legal 500 2021

    • "Mark Freedman is a dynamic and highly experienced family lawyer who fights extremely hard for his clients and is always in their corner, thus ensuring their loyalty and confidence. In a trial you would always want him on your side."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "She has impressed me as someone who fights my corner but also understands the importance of resolving issues without unnecessary escalation. She is calm and reassuring."

    • "Her mediation practice is exceptional; she is also a great solicitor and has a breadth of skill which is really useful."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • "He is really experienced and wise. He has a lovely manner about him and clients feel safe with him."

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    • "Jo Wescott is top notch and widely recognised as a rising star throughout the profession. She brings a winning combination of great judgement, an immense work ethic, and a relaxed and charming way with opponents and clients alike. Someone you want on your side”

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Osbornes is pre-eminent for family law in North London. Mark Freedman is a real rainmaker. He is an excellent lawyer and has a top-notch practice"

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases.

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • "Exceptional value for money. Highly competent and reasonably priced. Mark Freedman: one of the best in the field."

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    • "Client-focused. Ready to fight the clients’ corner, but also ready where possible to steer client from unnecessary dispute. Mark Freedman – very experienced, with good instinct for the eventual result. Clients love him and he thinks ahead and directs the client to the best result for the client."

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    • Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from the dissolution of civil partnerships.

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    • "Mark Freedman is a real heavyweight litigator who has dealt with some very significant cases."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman boxes clever, keeps his powder dry and when it comes to the end game he negotiates a really good deal."

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    • "Mark Freedman has a specific focus on high-net-worth divorces and finance cases where there are overseas assets and trusts."

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    • "The very personable and client-focused Lisa Pepper."

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    • "Joanne Wescott is a very approachable and sensible opponent."

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    • "Lisa Pepper somehow manages to get parties to settle on matters where there isn’t much hope to start out with."

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    • "Lisa can handle the large and complicated cases but takes equal care with the smaller cases. She is a highly skilled mediator who is a consummate professional."

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    • "Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."

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    • "Mark Freedman draws acclaim for his work in high net worth divorce cases, including those involving company structures, family trusts and overseas assets."

      Chambers UK 2019

    • "He never gives up. He fights for you to the end and has boundless energy."

      Chambers UK

    • Mark Freedman advises high-net-worth clients and knows his stuff.

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    • Highly regarded for his experience as a litigation and mediation expertise, Mark Freedman is tenacious and determined. Clients really feel that he is fighting their corner.

      Chambers UK

    • Andrew handled a very complex, 3 year legal battle for me, with a tremendous amount of patience and professionalism. He is very approachable, always kept me up to date, by phone and e-mail, and responded very quickly to my queries with excellent advice, sound strategic thinking and strong letters to put the other side under pressure. With top contacts for barristers, joint experts and mediation.

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    • [The Family Law department] handles significant matrimonial finance cases and complex nuptial agreements. Respected for its expertise in cross-border children law matters.

      Chambers UK

    • Mark Freedman represents high net worth clients in complex financial disputes. Sources say that "he's a determined negotiator who'll always do the very best for his clients.

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark Freedman receives a lot of instructions from clients based abroad, often relating to complex divorce proceedings. Sources say: “His main strengths are his enthusiastic passion for the job in hand and his total dedication to his clients.”

      Chambers UK

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