No-fault divorce hailed a success after two years in practice

A game-changer since 2022, no-fault divorce aims to reduce conflict by removing blame. Couples now only need to cite irretrievable breakdown. Stats reveal a shift towards joint applications, fostering cooperation. But awareness remains a hurdle, says Law Society.

No-fault divorce has been hailed as a welcome success, two years after it was introduced in 2022. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was designed to reduce the potential for conflict among divorcing couples by removing the ability to make allegations about the behaviour of a spouse and allowing couples to end their marriage jointly. 

Under previous law, one spouse had to state that the marriage had irretrievably broken down and then allege adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion in order to start divorce proceedings immediately. Under the new law, they now only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The Act also allows couples to jointly apply for a divorce, where the decision to separate is mutual. 

There has to be a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order. This provides couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to cooperate and prepare for the future including untangling the matrimonial finances. It is no longer possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds including jurisdiction. 

The latest government figures show that between October to December 2023, there were 23,517 divorce applications. Of these, 75% were from sole applicants and 25% from joint applicants, including for the dissolution of civil partnerships. Throughout 2023, there were 110,770 divorce applications and 103,501 final orders — a final order means you are legally divorced and your marriage is at an end. A conditional order is a document that says the court does not see any reason why you cannot end your marriage or civil partnership.

A Law Society spokesman said: “No-fault divorce ushered in a new era for divorcing couples. Our members tell us that while many couples are still not aware of the changes in the law, they are happy when they know about them.

“Separating couples are also driven by wanting to sort out their financial situation, but they are unaware they need to start divorce proceedings first in order to get a conditional order to lodge papers for court approval.

“Early advice would help couples to understand how to navigate the process and ensure the courts receive the right documentation at the right time.”

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law, please contact a member of our team on 020 8290 0333 or email for a free initial consultation with one of our family experts.

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