No Fault Divorce

A no fault divorce essentially means that a spouse who is petitioning for a divorce, does not have to attribute blame to the other spouse; quite simply put there is no longer pointing fingers towards each other given the relationship is now over.

To divorce your partner, you have to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down without no longer needing to cite and prove the specific reason. The BBC notes that no fault divorce laws exist in many other countries such as Sweden (since 1973), Australia (since 1975), Germany (since 1976), Canada (since 1986), Spain (since 2005) and Malta (since 2011). The divorce law has changed in the UK after over 30 years of consideration by the governments.

The purpose of a no fault divorce is to try and reduce the acrimony between a separating couple to ensure a swift divorce without any blame. This will allow a separating couple to focus on other key issues such as where the children will reside and the amount of time they will spend with each parent. A no fault divorce also reduces the bitterness of separating and thus allowing a separating couple to focus on financial settlement.

Article Contents

What is a fault divorce?

Unmarried couples living together are referred to as cohabiting. This is one of the fastest growing family formation types in the UK. In 2019 as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 18.4% of the families in the UK are made up by cohabiting co

A fault divorce means one party is blaming the other party for either their behaviour or actions which results in the marriage being broken down to the extent that they are unable to continue living together as a married couple. 

A fault divorce required you to prove that you satisfy the ground of divorce that your marriage has broken down irretrievably by using one of the facts. The facts which were previously used to prove fault were adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion. So during a fault divorce the person applying for a divorce had to attribute blame towards the behaviour of their partner unless they were using the grounds of separation of 2 years by consent or 5 years separation.

A fault divorce was often seen as causing conflict and acrimony between separating partners. In the UK as of 6th April 2022, fault divorces has been removed by changes in the law and is therefore no longer available. The fault divorce ended when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 made reforms and removed the requirement to establish facts or fault in both marriages and civil partnerships

uple families. This is approximately 3.5 million couples who live together without entering into a marriage or civil partnership. Unmarried couples rights to property following separation differ vastly from those that entered into a marriage or a civil partnership.

Despite the number of years you may have been cohabiting together, if you are not married you do not have any automatic legal rights to your partners assets under family law. Upon separation one unmarried partner may not be able to claim ownership over the other partners property following a separation under family law.

Of course, this is different where an unmarried couple either jointly own a property or jointly rent a property. In such a situation a couple may agree between themselves to either sell the property and receive the income as per the share they had in the property or alternatively one partner may consider buying the other partners share in the property. Where cohabitees jointly own the property and one partner refuses to vacate the property they also have the option of seeking an occupation order.

What changes are implemented by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms?

This new legislation as confirmed by the Law Society allows couples to divorce without citing any of the old five grounds of divorce hence it is known as the no fault divorce. There is also no longer the possibility to contest a divorce unless extreme limited circumstances apply, which means where one party wants a divorce this will proceed regardless of the other party wanting the divorce or not. For the first time the divorce process also allows a joint application for the divorce to be made. This would be best suited for couples who remain on amicable terms and are willing to complete a joint application. However if your partner is not agreeable to a divorce but your marriage has broken down irretrievably and you want to proceed with a divorce you can still submit a sole application.

What is a no-fault divorce?

A no-fault divorce is effectively relying on a reason of divorce in which you are not directly relying on blaming your spouse which is that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.  A no-fault divorce is where blame is not apportioned, and parties want a divorce and to separate. Unlike the old fault divorce process you no longer have to prove one of the five grounds for divorce. If you would like more information on a no-fault divorce, contact us today to arrange a free no fault divorce consultation.

What happens in a no fault divorce?

Unlike a fault divorce for a no fault divorce you no longer have to provide a reason for your separation or provide a ground for divorce. Furthermore in order to reduce the friction and acrimony between a separating partner there is also no longer an option for the party who is receiving the divorce application to contest the divorce. Previously a fault divorce would lead to a contested hearing where one party contests the divorce. The process is more simpler for separating couples which means the divorce will proceed without any contest. The no fault divorce therefore aims to provide reduced times, reduced costs and reduced acrimony and stress associated with going through court for your divorce.

Are a decree absolute and a decree nisi still applicable?

During the old fault divorce system the documents which confirm the end of a marriage were known as the decree nisi and the decree absolute. The new reforms mean that under a no fault divorce these terminologies have now changed. The decree nisi is now known as the Conditional order and the Decree absolute is replaced by the Final Order.

How long does it take for a no fault divorce?

The timescales for a no fault divorce have changed from the previous fault divorce system. The minimum time taken for no fault divorces to conclude is now 26 weeks. The Conditional Order (formerly decree nisi) is now issued after a waiting period of 20 weeks from the time the application is submitted. This is also known as the period of reflection of reconsideration which allows the separating couple to reconsider their decision to proceed with a divorce. The Final Order (formerly decree absolute) is now pronounced 6 weeks after the Conditional Order is made. This time is also utilised to allow parties to resolve any child arrangement or financial settlement issues.

What is the cost

The court fee for when issuing a no fault divorce application is £593.00. However you may be entitled to help with your fees if you are eligible. The eligibility for help with fees depends on your income, savings and whether you receive any benefits as well as whether you are responsible for the care of any children. You may be entitled to a full or partial fee remission which is based on your individual circumstances.

However it is important to note that the court fee of £593.00 purely applies to your divorce application to the court. Courts fees for other actions such as a child arrangements order application, or a financial settlement order application will be separate.

When can make a no fault divorce application?

The time as to when a divorce application can be made is once you have been married for at least 12 months. Therefore you will be unable to proceed with a no fault divorce application within the first year of your marriage. 

What is the no fault divorce process?

Before making a no fault divorce application you will need to determine whether you are making a sole application or whether you will be making a joint application. A joint application is usually made where there are no issues of domestic abuse and both parties remain amicable with the view that a divorce needs to happen.  

The initial step is to complete the online divorce application. This is completed online and can be sent to the court either electronically online or through the traditional postal method. In order to apply for the no fault divorce you will need your partners full name and an address for them together with your original marriage certificate or a copy which is certified. If you or your partner changed their name since marriage then proof of the name change will also be provided by way of either your marriage certificate or through a deed poll document.

If you can also provide an email address, for your partner then the courts will send the divorce papers to your partner via email. Alternatively the courts will post the divorce papers to their postal address

Once the application has been submitted for a no fault divorce the next step would depend on how you applied. If you applied as a sole applicant the courts will revert back to you with a notice confirming your application has been issued, a copy of your sealed application together with a case number. Your partner will also receive the divorce application together with an acknowledgement of service which must be responded to within 14 days. If your partner does not answer you can then continue with the no fault divorce process by applying for the conditional order.

If your application was a joint application then the courts will check your application and send a copy of the sealed application together with the case number and an acknowledge receipt. Following receipt of this you will need to wait for 20 weeks after which you can apply for the conditional order and continue with the divorce.

Once you have applied for a conditional order the court will issue a certificate confirming this providing the judges agree. The certificate will contain details of the date and time you will be granted the conditional order.

Once this is complete you will need to wait for a period of 6 weeks before you can finalise your no fault divorce by applying for a final order to end the marriage. Once you apply providing the courts agree that the time limits have been adhered to and there are no reasons to not grant the divorce a final order will be issued and sent to both parties. This will confirm that your marriage has ended.

Can a no fault divorce be contested? 

On of the aims of the reforms was to stop a divorce from being contested. Under the old rules if one party was opposing the divorce then the courts felt compelled to investigate matters further which increased time, costs and above all acrimony between a separating couple. However under the new no fault divorce process a divorce cannot be contested unless extremely limited circumstances apply for which the courts require investigation. These extreme limited circumstances are:

  • Jurisdiction issues – This is usually where neither party has lived in or has any ties in England and Wales and therefore one party is contesting the divorce to dispute the court jurisdiction.
  • If the separating couple have not entered into a legal valid marriage in the first place
  • The marriage or civil partnership has already terminated legally.

How do I know if my divorce application falls under the no fault divorce process?

The reforms and the no fault divorce laws came into force on the 6th April 2022. This means if you were to make an application for a divorce now, your application would fall under the new laws of no fault divorce. If however you made an application which was processed by the court before or by the 31st March 2022 then this will fall under the old divorce laws.

Can I get a no fault divorce if I am unaware of my ex-partners address?

Yes it is possible to get a divorce or end your civil partnership if you do not know where your former partner is. However this process can be quite lengthy and will require you submit a D13B statement in support of a request to dispense with service of the divorce. You will need to detail the enquiries you have made to try and obtain your former partner’s details.

It would often be quicker if you could find the address prior to submitting your divorce application. You could attempt to contact any children, family or friends, work colleagues or the last known employer of your former partner to see if you can obtain an address.

Should you still find it difficult to obtain your former partners address then contact us today. Our family specialists can assist you in reaching out to and contacting private investigators who can trace your former partners address prior to you issue your divorce. If you have already issued your divorce and want to serve the papers on your former partner then we can also assist you in locating such services which may be helpful. These services will be court accredited and you could select the ones which are convenient and affordable to you.


Can I still get a fault based divorce?

You may be wondering if your spouse has done something wrong which has resulted in you drifting apart whether you can still obtain a fault based divorce. Unfortunately from the 6th April 2022 any divorces will automatically fall under the new no fault divorce process. Therefore regardless of the actions of your spouse which you may wish to rely on to show their unreasonable behaviour, you will no longer be able to rely on a fault based divorce. There may still be an opportunity however to raise certain conduct within the financial settlement proceedings especially where there is financial misconduct by one party. The changes in law only impact the divorce process itself. The financial settlement provisions are not affected and remain the same.

Contact Kabir Family Law today for a free initial consultation

If you are considering getting a divorce or want to end your civil partnership then contact us today for advice. Our family lawyers in Cardiff as well as across Newcastle, Northampton, Oxford and London can assist you to ensure you fully understand the principles of divorce and assist you with your application. Our family specialists can also advise you on not just the divorce but issues associated with the divorce such as child custody and financial settlements.

We provide family law advice nationally as well as internationally through telephone, email and Skype. We will also ensure you are kept up to date with your matter and assist you developing a strategy to help you succeed. Contact us today for a free initial consultation by calling on 02921 921 400 to discuss your options or let us call you back.