Gail Cartwight – “It’s the most significant change in divorce law since 1969.”

Gail Cartwight – “It’s the most significant change in divorce law since 1969.”

“No Fault” Divorce Law


From 6 April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will introduce an entirely new “no fault” basis for obtaining a divorce and a new minimum 26 week timetable.


What does the new law mean?


The most significant change surrounds the “no fault” basis of the law changes. The divorce process will no longer begin by highlighting various – highly acrimonious – allegations of unreasonable behaviour in the divorce petition. This will be a welcome change for those who enter the divorce proceedings, as well as for family law practitioners like myself. 

The process will begin with a divorce application rather than a petition. Either party can make the application or both parties can make the application jointly.

Gone is the old decree nisi replaced by a new conditional order.

Gone is the old decree absolute.

A new final order will now dissolve the marriage or civil partnership. The new process also applies to judicial separation and nullity.

Regardless of who made the application, the new timetable allows the applicant or, in a joint application, either party or both to apply for the conditional order after 20 weeks.

Like the old law, 6 weeks after the conditional order, the application can be made for the final order, hence the minimum 26 week timetable. Again, the applicant or, in a joint application, either party or both, may apply for the final order.


Will the divorce process be faster?


It’s possibly a little slower, but only slightly, compared to the old procedure where both parties were cooperating to obtain their decree absolute at the earliest opportunity.

As before, there will be many occasions where the parties agree to postpone the application for the final order while they reach a settlement in respect of the financial aspects of the separation.


What are the costs?


The court issue fee will still be £593 and solicitors will still charge a fee to complete the process as before or the parties will undertake the process in person. Costs orders will still be possible but more unusual.

As before, whether a solicitor begins the divorce application or they begin the application themselves, parties will still require legal advice regarding the financial aspects of their separation and regarding the arrangements for the children.


What will be the advantage to the client?


The advantage, for those who wish to bring a very difficult and frequently acrimonious period of their lives to a conclusion promptly, will be to avoid the additional aggravation of citing a list of the other’s worse faults at a time when energy and effort would be better spent on co-parenting and settlement.

The process will still be a difficult one, however, everyone’s concentration can be aimed towards agreeing the arrangements for the children and a resolution of the financial aspects of the separation.


Should I wait until April 6 to start divorce proceedings?


Absolutely not. For anyone contemplating a divorce or separation, it’s important to seek early independent legal advice from a family solicitor. Regardless of the new divorce law, legal advice regarding the arrangements for the children and the financial aspects of the separation are vital. This is no different to before.

The blame is about to be removed from the divorce application, however the process of separation remains complicated and will always be stressful for most. Speaking to an experienced solicitor is always a sensible option.

Please feel free to contact me directly on or by calling 0161 446 1745 to arrange a 30 minute free initial meeting.

Gail Cartwright
Head of Family Law