No Fault Divorce – a guide to the changes


Historically, to petition (apply) for divorce, the person making the application had to provide reasons and apportion blame on their spouse in order to satisfy the court that the application should be granted. This inherently caused more conflict and made the process of legal separation more difficult and fractious than necessary.

On 6 April 2022, The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) was enacted (came into force) which removed the blame-driven culture for separating couples. The aim was to reduce conflict and improve the experience for those going through divorce. There have been some changes to the process and terminology which I shall explore below. However, whilst there are procedural amendments, the courts still have jurisdiction to hear and decide upon matters ancillary to the divorce process.

New Terminology

As part of the amendments, the legal terminology used has been updated to use plain English and to remove jargon. The below changes are key for you to note:

Old                                         New

Petition                                Application

Petitioner                            Applicant

Decree Nisi                         Conditional Order

Decree Absolute              Final Order

Key Facts of the No Fault Divorce Process

The procedural aspects of divorce have been updated and I have set out the key aspects below.

  • Joint Applications: It is now possible to apply jointly in addition to making an individual application for divorce, civil partnership and judicial separation.
  • No Fault Applications: The requirement to provide grounds for divorce have been removed.
  • Longer Response Time: The Respondent now has 14 days to respond to an application (not 7 days).
  • Extended Mandatory Waiting Period: There is now a 20 week mandatory waiting period from application acceptance to the issue of a Conditional Order.
  • Applicant Changes Permitted: Ability to change form a joint application to a sole application at both the Conditional Order and Final Order stages.
  • Removal of Respondent Defences: The Respondent cannot defend the application for divorce on the ground that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down. The only potential grounds of defence are that the court does not have jurisdiction or that there has been procedural irregularity.

What does this mean for you?

The process is now very simple and has made divorce straightforward. There is now a buffer period of 20 weeks until the Conditional Order is issued and the requirement to provide grounds for divorce has been removed.  

Rejecting the Application

Once the application has been submitted, and the statement accepted that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, there is less room to respond and stop proceedings unless both parties agree to attempt to reconcile their differences within the 20-week holding period.

Dealing with Divorce Related Matters

Where there are issues to resolve (such as childcare and finances) and you cannot agree on the outcomes between yourselves, you can apply to the court to decide these for you. As with all other divorce applications, you are encouraged to attempt to self-resolve using assistance such as mediation and collaborative legal negotiations. A Court Order must still be obtained to formalise the arrangements if these were agreed between the couple, even with professional assistance.

It is always advisable to seek legal advice as to your position and options. Whilst the process has been simplified, the complications of untangling a life built with your spouse may require the assistance of professionals to ensure that your legal rights and obligations are protected.

If you need assistance with any of the above issues or require support with your divorce applications, please contact Sima directly by calling 02073531746 or via email: