2023: A Change in Divorce Law: ‘No fault’ Divorce now in place.

Sharon Blackstone
Solicitor, Mediator and Collaborative Practitioner
5 June 2023

A significant change in the law relating to the issue of divorce proceedings came into effect on 6th April, 2022. This introduced the ‘no fault’ divorce, which many family lawyers have campaigned for, for many years.

Under the new law, the only ground for a divorce is that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’ However, under the old law, the irretrievable breakdown had to be proven by one or more of five facts such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour or you had to wait for 2 or 5 years post separation to start the divorce proceedings.

Since 6th April 2022, none of the “facts” now need to be proved. The applicant now justs file a statement (as well as dealing with other formalities), declaring that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The other party is not able to defend or cross-apply in the proceedings. However, the applicant must wait for a period of 20 weeks (the cooling off period) before progressing to the next stage, the conditional order, which used to be known as the ‘Decree Nisi.’

Six weeks and one day after the conditional order is made, an application can be made for the ‘Final order’ which used to be known as the ‘Decree Absolute.’ The term ‘divorce’ is now no longer used but has been replaced with the term, ‘dissolution.’


The change should reduce some disputes as to who will apply for the divorce and what fact is to be relied upon. However, it will mean that one party to a marriage can just file the statement of irretrievable breakdown when they wish, without agreement with or reference to the other party who will have no right of redress.

The change in the law has not affected the way in which the Courts deal with issues about children and the finances when a married couple’s relationship breaks down. However, it should be noted that if you have agreed the terms of a financial agreement or settlement which you want approved by the Court in a formal Order, any existing or proposed divorce proceedings must have reached the stage of the Conditional Order for the Court to consider the terms which cannot be applied for until the 20 week cooling off period has passed from the issue of the dissolution proceedings. This means that if you anticipate reaching an early financial settlement by agreement, then your application for the divorce, or dissolution, should be started fairly early on in the process.

If it may be helpful to discuss your situation with us and when it may be appropriate to issue dissolution proceedings in your case, please do not hesitate to contact us.