New Divorce Laws – D-Day is finally here! no more blame…

Date Added 06.04.22

For the last 50 years or so, in order for a couple to obtain a divorce, English law stipulated that it had to be “someone’s fault”.  One party either had to have committed adultery or one party’s behaviour had to have been so bad that the other party simply could no longer tolerate it, in order to end their marriage, without having been separated for at least 2 years.  If neither of those reasons (or “facts” as they were more properly described) applied, then a party could rely on the fact that they had been separated from their spouse for 2 or more years, with the other party giving their consent to the divorce, or that their spouse had “deserted” them for 2 years or that they had lived apart for 5 years.

From today,  6th April 2022, all of that changed.  It no longer has to be one party’s “fault” that the marriage has broken down.   The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 now provides that you no longer need to blame your spouse, or anyone else for that matter, if your marriage fails.  You can now pursue a divorce based on what we now call “no-fault”.

The aim of the new law is to reduce the conflict and acrimony so many couples faced when trying to obtain a divorce under the old law.  The new law now means that it will not matter who is to blame for the end of the marriage and actually introduces the novel idea that spouses can end their marriage jointly.

So, what are the new rules:
  1. There is some new terminology:
  • A divorce petition becomes “an Application”
  • The Petitioner becomes the “Applicant” for a sole application. If it is a joint application, then the parties are known as “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2”
  • The Decree Nisi becomes the “Conditional Order”
  • The Decree Absolute becomes the “Final Order”
  • Defended proceedings become “Disputed” proceedings
  1. Blame no longer needs to be applied to one party, so all that is now required is a statement confirming that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, i.e. that it is beyond repair. This is all that is needed to satisfy the Court that a party should be entitled to a divorce.
  2. There will now be a minimum 26-week timeframe for the completion of the divorce, which means that. a divorce should be capable of being finalised in six months. The six-month time frame runs from the date the Court issues the Application, not when the parties separated nor when paperwork is sent to the Respondent.
  3. Under the new law, it will only be possible to contest the divorce in very limited circumstances such as fraud, procedural non-compliance, jurisdiction or validity of the marriage. If this applies, then the proceedings become “disputed”.
  4. The Application can now be sent to the other party via email if the Court is asked to do so.
How will the new law work in practice?

The “Conditional Order” (formerly the “Decree Nisi”) can be applied for 20 weeks from the date the Application is issued by the Court, providing the Respondent is aware of the proceedings and the paperwork has been sent to them.

Once 6 weeks and 1 day have elapsed from the date of the Conditional Order, the Applicant can apply for the Final Order (formerly the “Decree Absolute”) which confirms that the marriage has been formally ended and the parties are divorced.

If you need more than 6 months to complete the divorce then this is still allowed.  Likewise, if a divorce is required quickly, the process can be expedited on an application to the Court with supporting evidence for a judge to consider.


The court fee for a divorce remains at £593, with help with the fee still in place for those who require it and who are eligible for assistance.

An order requiring the other party to pay the other’s costs will only now be possible if an additional formal application is made to the Court and unless the applicant qualifies for help with court fees, a further court fee is paid.

What happens to a divorce issued prior to 6th April 2022?

Any divorce issued by the Court on or before 5th April 2022 will continue under the old law, so a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute will still be issued. Any Application issued by the Court after 6th April 2022 will proceed under the new law.

If you or anyone you know requires any assistance with pursuing a divorce… talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced team can guide you through the process and also provide advice regarding any issues you may have with your matrimonial finances or disputes over your children.

Child Law | Tollers Solicitors – Family Law

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