Divorcement. Man And Woman Hands Tear Apart Wedding Photo

New no-fault divorce proves to be very popular

It has been over two months since the new no-fault divorce legislation came into force and it has proven to be very popular. Here, Fiona Wood discusses why she believes this may be and looks at the new reality of the divorce process.

In April this year new divorce legislation came into force which means that all divorces are now issued on a no-fault basis. Prior to then you could only have a no-fault divorce if you had been separated for at least two years. If you had not been separated for that long, the only way that a couple could divorce was for one of them to allege the others adultery or unreasonable behaviour and assign blame for the marriage ending. This often led to increased animosity between the couple, which could impact their ability to co-parent effectively or have constructive discussions regarding their finances.

Lawyers had lobbied for a no-fault-based divorce system for many years, as they could see the negative impact that the old system had on a lot of divorcing couples. It would appear that the public also welcome this change, as HM Courts &Tribunals Service have revealed that 12,978 divorce applications were made under the new system in April 2022. In April 2021 they received 8,729. The total number of divorce applications made in 2021 was 107,724.

A new feature of the no fault divorce legislation is that couples can now jointly apply for a divorce. Of those applications made in April 22, 2,771 (21%) were jointly applied for. Joint applications may well increase going forward, when more divorcing couples become aware that this is possible.

It is my view that the increased number of those issuing divorce applications in April 2022, is due to separated couples waiting until the new legislation came into force, so that they can have a no-fault divorce. Whilst some expressed concerns that a no-fault divorce system would make it easier for couples to divorce, my experience is that those who decide to divorce do not make this decision lightly.

Many couples spend time trying to make their marriage work. If they do decide to divorce, the majority are keen to make the process as conciliatory as possible. The increase in popularity of alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, rather than court, to resolve issues regarding finances and arrangements for the children, when a couple divorce, shows that many who divorce are keen to avoid blame and to take a more constructive and pragmatic approach.

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