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No Fault divorce process

What is No Fault Divorce?

Under no fault divorce, irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the sole grounds for divorce.

Since April 2022, there is no part of the divorce process that legally requires you to attribute blame to one or other party.

As part of this law reform, you cannot contest a divorce if you are the respondent. Under the new divorce system, a divorce or civil partnership dissolution can only be contested on the basis of jurisdiction. This means that if your spouse files for divorce without your consent, or even knowledge, you must legally go through with the process.

However, part of the new no fault divorce process is that you can make a joint application for divorce if you both agree that your marriage has broken down.

No Fault divorce advice

What is the no fault divorce process?

The no fault divorce timeline involves four key stages.

  • You or your spouse can make a sole application, or you can make a joint application, based on the fact that your marriage has irretrievably broken down
  • After a ‘cooling off’ period of 20 weeks, you both confirm that you wish to proceed with the divorce
  • The Court makes a Conditional Order – this used to be called the Decree Nisi
  • The Court makes the Final Order after a minimum period of 6 weeks (previously called the Decree Absolute)

As with the previous law, you cannot apply for a divorce or a civil partnership dissolution during the first year of marriage.

What is a conditional order

How long does a no fault divorce take?

The process of no fault divorce takes a minimum of 26 weeks, or 6 months, which includes the 20-week cooling off period after the application has been made and the 6 weeks before the Court makes the Final Order (previously called the Decree Absolute).

However, these timeframes do not factor in administration time and the time a couple needs to negotiate their arrangements for post-divorce, for example the division of finances and child arrangements.

This is usually done during the 20-week cooling off period, but a Conditional Order can be made without the financial settlement, or the child arrangements being resolved. In most cases it is advisable to wait to apply for final order in the divorce until the parties have concluded the financial settlement.

There are factors that can affect the length of the divorce process. For example, if one party is uncooperative, or if the separating couple struggle to make decisions on their financial matters or child arrangements.

There may also be delays in the court process.

The average time a no fault divorce takes to be finalised, including reaching a financial settlement, is around a year.

No Fault Divorce FAQs

No Fault Divorce FAQs

  • Benefits of no fault divorce

    No fault divorce has transformed the process of getting divorced by entirely removing the legal requirement to attribute blame.

    Removing the need for blame has helped many couples reach agreements more amicably than may have been possible under the old law. The ability to apply jointly for divorce has supported this process.

    The level of negotiation for some couples has also been reduced, saving time and expense. However, this is dependent on various factors including complexity of the finances and assets involved.

    Another key benefit is that it has intended to support victim-survivors of domestic abuse by removing the ability to contest a divorce as there is no ability for the recipient to contest the divorce

  • Disadvantages of no fault divorce

    However, for some couples, no fault divorce has had some disadvantages. Entirely dispensing with the “blame game” has removed the cathartic act of sharing why the marriage has broken down and attributing responsibility. This has been frustrating for some people.

    The compulsory waiting period has also been difficult for couples who want to finalise their divorce quickly.

    In some quarters, divorce is considered now to be ‘too easy’ as no fault divorce has simplified the process of legally ending a marriage. It has been argued that couples can end their marriage too easily and not work to salvage their relationship. However, this is one of the primary reasons for introducing the compulsory 20-week waiting period in the no fault divorce process, so couples have the potential to “cool off”, and if they choose, to reconcile.

It is important to note that in the UK no fault divorce as described above only applies in England and Wales. In Scotland, the divorce process is different.

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