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In this complete guide I’ll teach you everything you need to know about getting a no-fault divorce in the UK, including:

  • What is a no-fault divorce?
  • How long does it take?
  • How much does a no-fault divorce cost?
  • And more…

Let’s get to it…

What Is No-Fault Divorce?

No-fault divorce is a legal process that allows couples to end their marriage without having to prove that the other spouse was at fault. A no-fault divorce is granted on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences”, meaning that the couple has simply grown apart and no longer wants to be together.

In the past, if you wanted to get divorced you had to <bloglink>prove one of the 5 grounds of divorce<bloglink>, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This could often cause more acrimony between divorcing couples.

The no-fault divorce process will be quicker and easier as it no longer requires you to make allegations about your partner’s conduct to obtain a divorce.

In short, it removes the 'blame game' from the divorce process.

no fault divorce

How Does No-Fault Divorce Work?

With no-fault divorce, you no longer have to prove that your partner is at fault or attribute blame in order for the divorce to go ahead.

Instead, you simply need to state that your marriage has "irretrievably broken down".

The main features of no-fault divorce are:

  1. One spouse simply has to provide a legal statement to say the marriage has "irretrievably broken down" (or you can make a joint application if you both agree).
  2. You no longer need to provide evidence of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion.
  3. There’s no minimum separation period required before you can apply for a divorce.
  4. Once you have applied, there is a 20 week "cooling off" period between issuing the application and reaching the first stage of the divorce process.
  5. There will then be a 6 week period between the Conditional Order (the first stage of the divorce) and when the Final Order can be made, which formally grants your divorce.
  6. There will be no need to go to court as long as you and your spouse agree on key aspects of the divorce, such as child arrangements and financial matters. If you can’t agree on these, then you will have to go to court.

How Long Does A No-Fault Divorce Take?

You should expect the no-fault divorce process to take around six months from start to finish.

Much of the delay is down to the courts taking time to process your application, as they often have a large backlog.

A sand timer
Much of the delay in a no-fault divorce is due to court backlogs.

It is important to remember that no-fault divorce does not completely remove the possibility of conflict during the process.

While there is no longer the need to blame each other for causing the divorce, there is still scope for disputes, particularly over finances and childcare.

If you can't agree on a financial settlement or child custody, and need to ask the <bloglink>family law courts<bloglink> to decide, this will significantly increase the divorce timeline.

How Much Does a No-Fault Divorce Cost?

While there is no definitive answer to how much a <bloglink>divorce costs<bloglink>, there are two separate elements to consider:

  1. The no-fault divorce process, and;
  2. The <bloglink>divorce financial settlement.<bloglink>

People often don't realise that these are two separate processes.

The divorce settlement vs the divorce process

While many family law firms or online divorce services will offer a fixed fee for the divorce process, the core issue is that you still must agree on a divorce settlement with your partner.

If you can agree the divorce settlement, then a fixed cost divorce from a solicitor can be somewhere between £750 to £1500, while an online only service can be cheaper; in the region of £300 to £500. The spouse making the application will also need to pay the court fee of £593.

However, if you can't agree your divorce financial settlement (such as what happens to the <bloglink>family home<bloglink>, or how to divide your savings etc), then you may need to go to court, which will significantly increase the costs.

Can A No-Fault Divorce Be Contested?

No.

Under the non-fault divorce procedure, a spouse can no longer contest (object to) the divorce happening.

In short, if one of you wants to get divorced, the other partner cannot stop it.

A family law court room
You can no longer go to court to stop your divorce from happening.

However, this does not apply to other elements of the divorce, such as the financial settlement, child custody arrangements, or <bloglink>spousal support.<bloglink> These can still be objected to, and challenged in court if necessary.

Note: You can also still challenge the divorce on the grounds that <bloglink>the marriage was never valid<bloglink> to begin with.

What Are The Benefits Of No-Fault Divorce Law?

The key benefit of no-fault divorce law is that it removes the need to apportion blame, helping to make the process more amicable and less confrontational. This can be particularly important when considering the best interests of any children involved, as it minimises the stress they experience and allows them to continue to have a relationship with both parents.

In addition, under the new law the process is easier, as there are no hearings and no need for evidence or witnesses. Overall, most couples (and lawyers) find it to be a great improvement over the old system.

With that said, let's have a look at how the old law and the new no-fault divorce laws compare:

Previous Divorce Law

No-Fault Divorce Law

Applying For Divorce
Applying For Divorce

One spouse must apply for the divorce and effectively ‘blame’ the other by alleging and proving one of the 5 grounds of divorce.

Applying For Divorce

Either or both parties can provide a statement saying that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There’s no need to prove anything more than this.

Contesting Divorce
Contesting Divorce

The respondent can contest the divorce, which could delay your separation for up to 5 years.

Contesting Divorce

It is not possible to contest the divorce. Once either spouse submits their application and statement, the court must accept it and grant the divorce.

Terminology
Terminology

    Out of date terms were used:

  • First stage of divorce was called 'Decree Nisi'.
  • Final stage was called 'Decree Absolute'.
  • Person applying was called the ‘Petitioner’

Terminology

    Updated terms now used:

  • ‘Decree Nisi’ is now called ‘Conditional order’
  • ‘Decree Absolute’ is now called ‘Final order’
  • ‘Petitioner’ is now called the ‘Applicant’

Timeline
Timeline

There is a minimum 6-week ‘cooling off’ period between the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.

Some of the grounds of divorce also require you to have been separated for between 2 to 5 years before applying for the divorce.

Timeline

There is a 20 week ‘cooling off’ period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order.

There is no minimum separation period before you can apply for divorce.

Settlement
Settlement

You can challenge the financial settlement and child custody arrangements.

Settlement

You can still challenge the financial settlement and child custody arrangements.

No-Fault Divorce FAQs

Does the removal of fault affect the financial settlement in a no-fault divorce?

In a no-fault divorce, the parties are still free to negotiate their own financial settlement.  If they can't agree, the matter will go to court where a judge will decide what is fair. The removal of fault from the equation will not make any difference to the amount of money that one spouse is awarded, or any consideration of child custody arrangements.

Will no-fault divorce increase the number of divorces?

There had been some concern that no-fault divorce law would lead to an increase in the number of divorces. However, since the introduction of no-fault divorce on 6 April 2022, there has been no evidence to support this claim. In fact, research suggests that the current system actually leads to a decrease in the number of acrimonious proceedings and encourages couples to reach a settlement more quickly by ending the 'blame game'.

Can I get a no-fault divorce online?

Yes- there are online services that can process your application as an entirely <bloglink>digital process online<bloglink>, or alternatively you can go to high street family law solicitors. If you're able to agree your financial settlement, many of these services will also include a <bloglink>consent or clean break order<bloglink> as part of your divorce package. However, if you're applying to the court to approve your financial settlement, or child custody arrangements, you'll still need to attend a <bloglink>MIAM meeting<bloglink> first.

When did no-fault divorce proceedings become law in the UK?

The <bloglink>"Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020"<bloglink> introduced the new no-fault divorce law on 6th April 2022, and completely replaced the old system.

Does no-fault divorce apply to civil partnerships?

Yes- the no-fault divorce laws that apply to marriage, also apply in exactly the same way to couples who want to end their civil partnership through a civil partnership dissolution.

Do You Need Help Paying For A Divorce Lawyer?

If you can't agree on divorce finances or any child arrangements, you might need the help of a divorce lawyer.

However, many people worry about how to pay for the costs of a lawyer.

Well, there are now range of specialist funders who can help with your legal fees, and there is no need to pay upfront.

You can use the specialist funding for:

  • Mediations sessions
  • Solicitor led negotiations
  • Going to divorce court
  • And more...

Specialist funding is rapidly becoming one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to pay for family law cases.

Check out my divorce funding page to learn more.