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No-fault Divorce

View profile for John Boon
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It is now coming up to 2 years since the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act of 2020 (better known as a No-Fault divorce) came into force.  

What has been the impact of no-Fault Divorce?
No-Fault divorce came into effect from 6th April 2020, removing the need to particularise the facts of the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership by citing adultery, behaviour or periods of separation.  This represented a much sought after and long-awaited change to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act of 2004.

Whilst there remain a few cases under the “old law” which are ongoing, primarily because the financial claims arising out of the breakdown of the marriage/civil partnership have not yet been resolved, the overwhelming majority of cases now being dealt with are under the no-fault legislation.

But what has been the impact of no-fault divorce, and has it succeeded in its intended purpose of simplifying the divorce process and minimising animosity between separating couples?

The statistics on no-fault divorce
In terms of statistics, on 28th September 2023, the date for the 3 month period covering April 2023 to June 2023 revealed that divorce applications were down 30% on the same period in 2022, being the 3 month period immediately after the legislation came into effect. It is widely accepted that the introduction of no-fault divorce initially led to a flurry of new divorce, with a number of those applications having been put on hold prior to 6th April 2022, with separating couples preferring to issue proceedings under the new law rather than the old fault-based system.

This, coupled with the fact that applications for a divorce are now almost solely made digitally (94% of divorce applications were made online in 2022 up from 10% in 2019) has made the process much more administrative in nature and has helped relieve the pressure on a strained Court system. However, due to the 20 week “cooling off” period which forms part of the no-fault legislation, divorce proceedings still take around seven to eight months from start to finish.

Has no-fault divorce made divorce ‘too easy’?
Although the increased ease in bringing an application for divorce and the removal of fault-based grounds has come to a relief to many who have campaigned for a change of the law, there has been some criticism that divorce is now too easy and undermines the institution of marriage.  In particular, given that divorce applications can no longer be defended, save on limited procedural grounds, concerns have been raised about the potential for one-sided decisions and the emotional impact this will have on the other party, who does not want a divorce and who may feel that the process is too swift.

Important considerations in no-fault divorces
Although the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales represents a significant step towards a more modern and compassionate legal approach to the complexities of relationship breakdown, the long-term impact is still to be assessed.  In addition, it is important to remember that the financial implications of a breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership still need to be addressed separately, as do any issues with regard to child arrangements following a separation.   It is those issues which often prove to be the most contentious and difficult to resolve.

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Family Law Team at Roythornes if you require assistance or advice with the breakdown of a relationship or the matters arising from it.