No-fault divorce law has come into effect

The long-awaited change in divorce law has finally gone ahead - but solicitors are already warning separating couples to prepare themselves for a wait as there could be a surge in applications.

The day has arrived

After several delays, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, also known as “no-fault” divorce came into force in England and Wales from Wednesday 6th April.

Up until now, couples wishing to divorce had to fall into one of the following categories: unreasonable behaviour, infidelity, desertion or if you and a spouse had lived apart for a continuous period of time.

Welcome news

However, there were large numbers of couples who wanted to end their marriages simply because the relationship had irretrievably broken down. In these instances, couples were forced to file in an incorrect category - either waiting up to five years and living separately to classify as desertion, or unreasonable behaviour.

But, not only was this unfair on couples who wanted to part ways, it was also more emotionally taxing - especially when partners wanted to separate amicably. It was only adding more time to the process, causing more heartache for this involved.

Many years of campaigning have led to this moment, as calls for change gave way to action in what has been called the biggest shake-up to divorce law in 50 years. There were some setbacks along the way, with launch dates revised and then a global pandemic, but finally, as of Wednesday, couples can legally separate due to no-fault.

Why the wait?

There will no doubt be many couples in a “no-fault” situation, who may even have chosen to wait for the law to pass before separating, keen to push through their paperwork. What’s more, last Thursday was the final day for couples to divorce under the existing system - altogether, this adds up to a potential backlog as people surge forward to begin proceedings.

When Scotland adopted no-fault divorce in 2006, there was a lot of pent-up demand as couples agreed to separate, but couldn’t face the “blame game”.

There are also concerns that with divorce at all-time low levels, a change like this could put a spanner in the works for the statistics. According to the latest numbers, published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday, divorce petitions in the last quarter of 2021 were down 26% on the same period in 2020.

Not only could there be delays with solicitors firms, but in the courts too which have faced cuts and delays thanks to Covid.

We can help

If you are thinking of filing under the new divorce law, please be patient. Keep communications open with your solicitor and your former spouse to make sure things keep moving along as quickly as possible.

Here at Downs Solicitors has long supported the introduction of no-fault divorce law and we are pleased to see it finally come into effect. We're here to listen to you and can act in an empathetic and understanding manner so that we can get the best outcome for you and your family. Contact us if you would like more information.


Terina Farnan

Terina Farnan

Senior Associate Solicitor

Tel: +44 (0) 1932 588581

Office: Cobham

Email: t.farnan@downslaw.co.uk