The most significant change in the divorce law since 1973

Posted: 06 July 2022

April 6th 2022 saw the long-awaited introduction of a ‘no-fault’ divorce, dispensing with the use of the five known facts, establishing irretrievable breakdown, and removing the ability to make allegations about your spouse’s conduct. For the first time it allowed couples to jointly apply for divorce. This is the most significant change to English Divorce Law since 1973, with the aim of making the process of divorce less acrimonious.

It was clear that, previously, the already tense time of marital breakdown was exacerbated by the need to find fault. This often led to further difficulties when negotiating finances and arrangements for any children.

More collaborative process

Couples can be more collaborative during the process, by virtue of being able to apply for divorce jointly. There are also now only limited options for challenging a divorce, namely that the marriage wasn’t valid or that the court does not have jurisdiction. This is particularly good news for victims of domestic abuse. Their abusers can no longer hold them hostage by contesting a divorce on the grounds that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down.

New cooling off period

There is however a minimum time introduced between applying for a divorce and the court making the first divorce order, called a Conditional Order (previously called the Decree Nisi). The ‘cooling off period’ of 20 weeks is designed to allow couples to reflect and reconsider or co-operate and plan for the future. During this time, no agreements are legally binding, but couples can work to resolve any financial and children’s arrangements. After this time, the applicant must wait a further six weeks and one day to apply for the second divorce order, called a Final Order (previously called the Decree Absolute). If the applicant does not apply themselves, the respondent must wait an additional three months to apply.

With online no-fault divorces now easily available, you may wonder what a solicitor can do for you to help with your divorce.

Benefits of legal advice

Getting legal advice early on can help you to decide how much support you are going to need and at what stage of the process you will need it. Although applying for a divorce has been simplified, negotiating financial and children’s arrangements remains something insurmountable for many people, even if they have managed to agree a financial outcome and other arrangements. In this case, matters may be left unresolved, and issues can arise at any time in the future. When couples cannot agree, issues which could have been settled with just a few hours of legal advice can end tied up in court, costing time and money. Lengthy court proceedings do nothing to ease the tensions. In cases involving children, it can also destroy the chance at an amicable co-parenting relationship. It is always recommended to seek independent legal advice.

If you are interested in a confidential chat with one of our family law solicitors regarding how they can support you through your divorce, or you would like further information on the services we offer, please call 01245 493959 or email at

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