No Fault Divorce
No Fault Divorce Law
No Fault Divorce came into effect in April 2022. It means that separating couples are now able to get a divorce without one partner having to lay the blame on the other.
Lisa Pepper Partner
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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The law was changed because it was outdated and can cause arguments at the outset.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.
What are the benefits of no-fault divorce?
- A no-fault divorce cannot be contested
In the past, if you wanted to get divorced, and your spouse was against it, you had to prove that your spouse had committed adultery, behaved unreasonably or deserted you. In other words, you had to accuse your ex of something – and your ex could contest the divorce. With no-fault divorce, this is no longer possible. The new laws do not allow someone to dispute the divorce except in extremely limited circumstances (for example, if your spouse says you should not be divorcing here but in another country). This should reduce the chance of a lengthy and contentious legal battle so your divorce can be decided sooner.
- More cooperative decision making
Previously, couples had no option but to place the blame on their partner for the breakdown of the marriage. This could set an acrimonious tone from the beginning, and with facing many difficult issues to address and agree on – what happens to the family home, should there be spousal maintenance, how do we share the care of the children…. things risked getting off to a bad start before any of the “hard stuff” was addressed. With a no-fault divorce, there’s less scope for arguments and bad feelings. You can even apply for a divorce together in a joint application, which means both partners are accepting the marriage is at an end and cooperate at the outset.
- Keeps the costs down
While it’s early days for no-fault divorce in the UK, the hope is that it will help to keep the cost of a divorce down. A contested divorce that goes all the way to a court final hearing costs thousands, and is unnecessary – and bear in mind a case about the financial settlement between you, or the shared care arrangements for the children, would be separate and incur additional costs. If you both agree to the divorce and are motivated to compromise and conduct yourselves with dignity, perhaps with the help of a mediator to facilitate a discussion around the difficult issues – – you’re looking at a fraction of that amount.
- Less stressful for the children
If you have children, then it’s important to think about how the divorce will affect them. A no-fault divorce is more likely to start things off on the right foot. Witnessing arguments between parents can trigger early anxiety issues and other mental health issues in children. Sow the seeds of collaboration by agreeing on how the divorce will proceed; it will benefit your children so much if you can keep the process amicable.
- Takes less time
A no-fault divorce is not a ‘quickie’ divorce (there’s no such thing), and the process is not designed to be ultra-fast. In fact, there’s a new minimum period of 20 weeks for ‘meaningful reflection,’ between applying for a divorce and the Conditional Order (what was the Decree Nisi). While this may seem like a long time to wait, in reality, it gives couples an opportunity to talk about the practicalities of living arrangements, settling the financial split and looking after the children. Use this time wisely and you can finalise your divorce in around six months or so, without any court hearings.
- It empowers people who are in difficult relationships
For some people, the thought of divorce is a scary prospect. If you have experienced domestic violence or are worried about your ex’s reaction to the divorce, then a no-fault divorce can be a way for you to start to take back control and make decisions. Previously, in order to divorce, you had to either cite examples of your ex’s unreasonable behaviour or say they had committed adultery (which might have made you anxious, fearing repercussions) or if your ex would not consent to divorce after two years separation you’d have to wait five years before a divorce could be granted, which gave perpetrators additional time to control their partner.
No-fault divorce lawyers
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.
No Fault Divorce FAQs
How does no-fault divorce work?
The most significant changes to the divorce process 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 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.
The conditional order is the new name for a decree nisi.
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.
The final order is the new name for a decree absolute.
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.
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"Osbornes Law have a very broad family practice which does all areas of family law at a high level. They have an excellent practice; they are top quality across the board."
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.
Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues.
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Osbornes have been a sound firm forever. They have phenomenal work and an excellent skill set.
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They have an excellent practice; they are top quality across the board.
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He is very hard-working, diligent and thoughtful in his approach. He is on top of the detail and makes strategic decisions.
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Mark is an immensely capable lawyer, with vast experience and a well-deserved reputation for getting the very best for his clients.
Lisa Pepper is extremely hard-working and adored by her clients. She is a very empathetic and approachable lawyer.
She’s an extremely supportive and kind lawyer and has an increasing mediation profile too
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Osbornes has some very well known partners, and senior lawyers. It also has real strength in depth, with a solid team of lawyers at all levels.
Osbornes is firmly established as one of the top tier family departments in London. It has a range of clients and cases, many of which are notable because of their complexity. The team increasingly attracts clients who are very wealthy, or in the public eye.
Osbornes is a large team with expertise in private and public children. The strength and depth of the team means that every aspect of the complex cases sent to me is well prepared and properly considered. Nothing takes this team by surprise.
Osbornes is a strong family law firm with a number of particularly strong individuals. The lawyers work well as a team and have strong support for their clients.
Good family team with some excellent individuals.
Osbornes has the breadth of knowledge to tackle the range of family cases. The family team is dynamic and always responsive.
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It is a ‘really dynamic and diverse team which make it really innovative‘.
Osbornes is best known for its work on HNW international divorce and finance work. It is skilled at advising on nuptial agreements and on matters where there are complicated trusts, inherited wealth and cross-border issues.
Lisa Pepper is a talented lawyer and we regularly refer to her for mediation
"Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases".
Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.
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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."
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Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases.
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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.
"Mark is very experienced, competent, good with clients and takes a sensible approach to cases. He knows exactly what he's doing."
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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Bridget Thompson heads the family team, where client care is the top priority.
Mark Freedman advises high-net-worth clients and knows his stuff.
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.
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.
[The Family Law department] handles significant matrimonial finance cases and complex nuptial agreements. Respected for its expertise in cross-border children law matters.
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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.
"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.”
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