Untying the knot: Two years on from the introduction of No Fault Divorce

A Solicitor’s Perspective on No Fault Divorce

After years of campaigning, the “No fault divorce” finally came into effect on 6th April 2022. Was it worth it? How is it going?

The answer to the first part is a resounding, yes, it was worth it. Our research suggests the new law it is working. In the past, a divorce at its best could be as quick as 6 months or in majority cases it would drag on for several years before the final order, commonly known as “the Decree Absolute” would be granted. A complex divorce where the other party would fail to respond or the divorce was being defended, was distressing, lengthy and expensive. To understand the difficulties, it would help to outline a brief history of the Divorce law over time.

Brief history of an English Divorce

Divorce originates from 1533 (Henry VIII) when only a Pope could grant a divorce. Legal divorce was introduced in 1670 which allowed only men to apply for a divorce. In 1857 women were allowed to apply but only in exceptional circumstances, one of them being rape which had to be proved in a court of law. Over time more reasons were added but the core principle remained the same, that one party had to blame the other. The Divorce Reform Act 1969 was the first ever mention of “No fault divorce”. The Divorce Reform Act allowed the parties to apply on the basis that the marriage has broken down irretrievably using one of the five facts. Three facts were based on blame (unreasonable behaviour, Adultery or Desertion) and two facts were based on no blame (consent with 2 years of separation or 5 years separation). However, the most used reason was “unreasonable behaviour” which meant a party had to blame the other.

No fault Divorce

Campaigns continued to remove the 5 facts altogether and in 1990’s it finally seemed an achievable task. the Family Law Act 1996 included a section that would completely remove fault but unfortunately at the last minute the relevant sections of the Act were left out for being unworkable for two warring parties. Then came the famous case of Owen & Owen in 2018, where the wife tried to divorce her husband using the fact of unreasonable behaviour but the courts rejected her reasons on the basis that the behaviour was not unreasonable enough to warrant a divorce. She had to wait five years, from the date of separation, before she could finally get divorced in 2020. This supported the campaigns for the “No fault Divorce” which finally came into effect on 6th April 2022.

Progress since 2022

Working as a family law solicitor, I have seen the changing trends in our practice in divorce. Most parties are now applying for the divorce themselves, using the court’s online system. This is simple to follow and easy to achieve as no fault is being apportioned to the breakdown of the marriage. The change in law is working as it removes the necessity of either party making an accusation against the other, thus allowing for an amicable, quick and cheaper divorce. If the marriage has ended, neither party has to defend the divorce and the timeline is set to achieve a final order (Decree Absolute) in as quickly as 6 months.

How can we help  

Whilst the divorce law has changed to simplify the process, unfortunately the remainder of the family law issues remain as complex as ever. Issues arise when the parties are dealing with matters which are ancillary to the divorce. Often there are disputes concerning children arrangements and/or protecting property, savings, income, pensions and generally separating financial commitments. This is where we can help. If you would like to discuss any aspect of separation and divorce including pre/post nuptial agreement, cohabitation agreements please contact our team of specialist lawyers trained to assist you.



This article and testimony was written by Manveen Padda, a Family Law Solicitor at Wellers Law Group. Manveen, alongside the rest of the Family Law team, are here to help, no matter your family circumstances. Get in touch with Manveen today by email to discuss your options for divorce.