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No-fault divorce. A smoother path to divorce from 6 April 2022.

6th April 2022 by Jonathan Talbot

Categories: What's New?
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Once you have decided that your marriage is over and you have taken the first step towards divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, most people would like to be able to complete the formalities as quickly and smoothly as possible.  However, the historic laws of divorce have meant that the process could often be confrontational and one partner could refuse to cooperate.

Such was the situation in the recent case of Owens v Owens where the argument centered on whether Mr Owens had behaved in such a manner that it was unreasonable to expect his wife to continue to live with him.  The court found that his behaviour did not meet the legal standard for unreasonableness, and the only option for Mrs Owens was to wait until they had been separated for five years. Mrs Owens could not get a divorce sooner without proving that her partner was at fault, as he did not agree to the divorce.

‘From 6 April 2022 you will be able to apply for a no-fault divorce in England and Wales, and this will be welcome news for many who seek a divorce without having to point the finger of blame at their former spouse,’ says Jonathan Talbot, head of family law at Laceys Solicitors.  

Under the current rules, you can only obtain a divorce if you can prove your partner is at fault because of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion.  Alternatively, if you both agree, then you can divorce after two years of separation. If your partner does not agree and you cannot prove any fault, then you need to be separated for five years before you can obtain your divorce.   

What changes on 6 April 2022?

The old laws are being replaced with a new law, meaning you will be able to apply for divorce by simply declaring that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.  It will not be necessary to wait years, or to have to blame your former spouse. 

If you both agree to divorce

Under the new law you can apply for your divorce jointly.  Both of you can give notice to the court and sign, as part of your application, a joint declaration confirming the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage.

If one spouse disagrees

Either of you can give notice to court and sign a declaration as part of your application that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  It will not be necessary for your spouse to agree to, or to sign, the declaration.  Your application must then be sent to your spouse.

New jargon

There will be some changes in the terminology used for all divorces under the new law from April 2022:

  • the ‘petitioner’ will be known as the ‘applicant’;
  • the ‘decree nisi’ which is the first court order of your divorce will be replaced and known as a ‘conditional order’; and
  • the ‘decree absolute’ which is the last court order, and the one that actually dissolves your marriage will be replaced and known as a ‘final order’.

Removal of objections

Finally, there will be less ability to defend a divorce.  At present if you do not wish to be divorced then, as Mr Owens managed to do, you can defend yourself against the accusations of fault.  Alternatively you could contest the length of your separation.

Under the new simplified legislation these objections to divorce are removed.  Defending a divorce will now only be possible on very limited grounds, such as objecting to the validity of the marriage, fraud, objecting to the court having jurisdiction, or on procedural grounds.

Is this a quickie divorce?

The changes on 6 April 2022 include a 20-week cooling off period to provide an opportunity to change your mind, between having applied for your divorce and before the conditional order is made. 

After the conditional order has been made, you must wait a further six weeks to obtain your final order.  Bearing this in mind, it will not necessarily be a ‘quickie divorce’ but is certainly quicker than waiting two or five years.

Less acrimony

Eliminating the need to find fault will undoubtedly speed matters up in some cases and will reduce potential conflict. 

It can often be extremely upsetting and even provoke anger to read the allegations which have been made against you in a divorce petition.  This can ignite a bitter feud between spouses and even their extended families.  Removing the need to prove fault will remove stress and acrimony for many couples. 

For many, divorce does not stop the need to communicate with your former spouse especially when you have children together.  Having a less contentious divorce should help to maintain better relations and communications which will ultimately benefit everyone.  It can greatly assist children to come to terms with their new life, if they can see their parents communicating amicably. 

Reduced costs

The benefits also include keeping costs down and saving on court time. Under the old rules, a defended divorce was often expensive and took a long time.  Mr and Mrs Owens spent a significant amount of time and money on their legal battle. The new rules will mean disputed divorces will become almost unheard of.

It is important to note that in most cases the greater part of legal costs arises in relation to disputes over the financial arrangements rather than the actual divorce. 

How we can help

Every marriage is unique, and our family lawyers will explain and discuss the options with you so that you can decide the best way forward.  If you would like any further advice on this subject or other family matters please contact either our Family department on 01202 377800 or or our Mediation department on 01202 377993 or

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

Jonathan Talbot

Partner — Family

Direct dial: 01202 377844


Jonathan Talbot
  • “Jonathan has been amazing at helping me get a resolution with my ex-husband. He was a great listener when I was getting very upset about clauses in our old divorce agreement that were not being adhered to and reacted really quickly with a letter and support. I would not hesitate to ask Jonathan for help again but please excuse me if I hope that doesn’t happen for a while as we all know dealing with ex's is never much fun! Thank you Jonathan.”

    Sharron Davies, MBE

  • “Very happy with how you dealt with my case. Many thanks for your help and advice from Mr Talbot and his secretary.”

    Jan Saad

  • “Jonathan Talbot explained the process and how things would proceed. He was very patient allowing us time to understand and adapt to our new situation. Legal language can be quite difficult to understand and he would explain what it meant and how it would impact.”

    Rae Frederick

  • “I always use Laceys for my legal work, I feel able to talk to them and I know they listen. They have always been professional and kind.”

    Dawn Aston

  • “I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks to you and Shannon for helping me through this difficult time, I am really very appreciative to have had you on my team this year, you’ve been an enormous support. ”

    Mrs W

Jonathan heads up Laceys family department with over 30 years experience in Family Law.

He specialises in Family and Relationship Breakdowns, Financial Remedies, Collaborative Law and International Family Law.

Jonathan has a exceptional caring nature and will always strive to find solutions to family issues outside of the court if at all possible.

Outside of work Jonathan likes to keep himself busy by competing in Ironman 70.3’s when he gets the chance – which are no easy feat at having to complete a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and then a 13.1 mile run each race!

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