New no-fault divorce laws: what is it and how will it affect you and your children?

Couple signing divorce papers with lawyer. New April 2022 divorce laws explained by Thompson Smith and Puxon in Colchester.

The new divorce laws will be enforced from 6 April 2022, pushing through a no-fault procedure to reduce tension and blame between both parties. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you’re going through a divorce or about to begin the process, then it’s important to understand how the new no-fault rules will affect you, your family and the legal proceedings.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame, will come into force on 6th April 2022.  

The Act provides for the biggest reform of divorce law in fifty years and aims to reduce conflict between couples legally ending a marriage or civil partnership. 

In a discussion with Carol Robinson, a solicitor from Thompson, Smith and Puxon in Colchester, we learn what the new divorce laws are, when they will be implemented and how they will change the way divorces are settled.  

Q: What are the new divorce laws? 

A: The new divorce laws moves the process to a ‘no fault’ procedure, which aims to reduce hostility and tension, often caused by the apportionment of blame. 

This means that couples are now able to divorce solely on the basis that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, without needing to cite one of the five reasons for divorce. Previously these were: 

1. Adultery  

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2. Unreasonable behaviour 

3. Desertion  

4. Two years’ separation with consent  

5. Five years’ separation without consent

The first two reasons can naturally cause a great deal of distress, hurt and bad feeling between both parties. ‘Adultery’ must be either agreed to, or proven, and the adulterer is very often concerned that the other party will be named and, thus, drawn into the court proceedings, which can lead to the break-up of the new relationship. Equally, the petitioner may be so hurt that they will want to push through motivated by anger and revenge.

Couple amicably signing a document for divorce under new no blame divorce laws.

Couples are now expected and encouraged to proceed with the divorce jointly together, moving away from the traditional proceedings of one party making allegations against the other. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The kindest way to deal with an adultery petition is to request that the respondent signs a document reflecting their agreement, but that the petitioner does not name the co-respondent.

An “unreasonable behaviour” petition is a blame apportioning process whereby the petitioner uses incidents of behaviour to highlight (and so prove) that the marriage is unworkable. This frequently creates a conflictual process of claim and counter claim, often to no avail, underpinned by upset, hurt, anger and a negative impact on any children involved.

All of this is now set to change, whereby blame or fault will no longer be an element within divorce proceedings in order to reduce such impacts.

Q: How will new divorce laws change legal proceedings?

A: If and/or when a couple agrees to a divorce (providing it’s mutually amicable from both parties), the new laws mean that no one is required to state on record the reason for the divorce.

Another component that will be changing is the opportunity for both parties to initiate and proceed with the application jointly, instead of one party dictating the proceedings against the other, which can cause more distress and anguish for everyone involved.

Importantly, under no-fault rules, a party can also no longer contest the divorce.  

This is being enforced to reduce high legal expenses and long, drawn-out court proceedings previously initiated from parties due to feelings of bitterness and resentment as they try to win the case.

Mum comforting child going through divorce. New divorce laws with Thompson Smith and Puxon in Colchester.

The new laws aim to protect the welfare of your children by reducing bad feeling and improving relations between the two parties throughout the proceedings. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q: Will the new divorce laws make getting a divorce quicker?

A: Essentially, no. There will be a minimum 20-week limit enforced to allow couples time to reflect and consider the situation, and to decide if they want to work on the marriage instead. It will help prevent quick divorces from being accomplished based on impulsive and rash thinking, giving the marriage an opportunity to be reconciled first.

Q: How will the new divorce laws affect my children? 

A: By removing the ability to assert fault or blame onto the other party, this will reduce the pressure and stress that is often experienced by children during a divorce. Not only is the process smoother and easier to complete, but the children are less likely to be used as leverage or become caught up in the proceedings which can cause a great deal of emotional turmoil. 

Established in 1879, Thompson, Smith and Puxon and their solicitors are highly experienced in the legalities of divorce law and helping to make the process as smooth as possible for all involved. 

For more information on how the firm can help you through a divorce or other legal cases, visit tsplegal.com/service/family-and-divorce/divorce/.

For enquiries, contact 01206574431 or email Carol at: carol.robinson@tsplegal.com