Changes to divorce law

New 'no-fault' legislation to make it simpler for couples to separate.

The antiquated and sometimes contentious divorce law in England and Wales is due to change on 6 April with the removal of fault-based divorce and inflammatory language.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has been a long time coming.

If a marriage or civil partnership has broken down, parties can now apply on the basis of irretrievable breakdown with the old “conduct” points of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation or desertion going. No further evidence will be required other than a statement. This will go some way to reducing conflict, allegations and blame thrown up by the existing process which can cloud the bigger picture issues at stake for separating couples and their families.

The ability to defend is also going (with only limited reasons remaining) and, most radical, parties can either apply on an individual basis or, under the new provisions, by way of a joint application. Old inflammatory terminology such as “petitioner” will be replaced with “applicant” and the old decrees - Nisi and Absolute - will now become “conditional order” and “final order” respectively.

To allow reflection and to resolve practical arrangements for the future – children or finances, a minimum overall timeframe of 26 weeks is being introduced although, in reality this would still be a relatively quick outcome. From issue of the application (the term “petition” being dispensed with) until the conditional order, there is to be a minimum 20-week wait with the final six weeks being the minimum wait between conditional and final order.

The rules for judicial separation and nullity largely remain the same and advice can be given in these particular circumstances.

It is deemed sensible for parties to resolve any outstanding issues during this period and the Thrings Family team can advise parties on the most suitable means to discuss and resolve matters to suit their particular circumstances. We can also signpost you to other services such as coaches, counsellors and other experts.

For further information, please contact Fiona Kellow.


Family law guide