From 6 April 2022, changes to legislation on divorce will come into effect. In the biggest update to England’s divorce laws in decades, ‘no fault-divorce’ will mean couples no longer have to play the blame game and provide reasons for the ending of a marriage, and divorce applications will be granted immediately.

Divorce laws in England and Wales has been considered outdated for many years now; previously, if couples wanted to file for divorce they would need to prove that their relationship had broken down irreparably. This means having to prove at least one of five reasons in order to get a divorce, these are:

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behavior
  • desertion for at least two years
  • consensual separation for at least two years
  • separation for at least five years if one party disagrees there should be a divorce

Since the only reason a divorce would be granted in UK is the breakdown of the relationship, this encourages disputes and lasting bitterness between couples looking for one party to blame. Due to the time frames for separation, these laws have meant divorces can be tedious and time consuming for couples.

No fault-divorce, which has been used in Scotland since 2006, removes this need to establish one of the five reasons for divorce. Now one or both parties can apply together to the courts for a divorce order, they will no longer need to satisfy the court that the marriage has broken down, instead an application for a divorce order must include a statement that confirms the marriage has “broken down irretrievably.”

The act also introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order, which exists as an opportunity for couples to reflect and perhaps reconsider, in instances where a divorce is inevitable it gives couples a period to cooperate and consider their plans for the future.

Overall, this change in legislation is generally seen as a step in the right direction as existing laws haven’t reflected the reality of how many separations have occurred. While there might still be a long way to go in regards to divorce laws and costs, separated couples will now be able to follow a much simpler process, aimed at avoiding conflict and bitterness.