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No fault divorce: the first anniversary — where are we now?

The number of applications for divorce and dissolution has increased by approximately 25% since the new law came into effect.

A fanfare heralded the introduction of no fault divorce on 6 April 2022 after decades of campaigning from families and family law professionals.

Fiona Turner and Samantha Patel of Weightmans’ family team review the position one year on.

Fiona explains:

No fault divorce finally became a reality in June 2020, when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal Assent. It came into practice a little later than had originally been expected, on 6 April 2022, and has fundamentally changed the way that divorce law was dealt with during the previous 50 years.

The anticipation was palpable and many families made a positive decision to delay their application for divorce for many months, if not years, until the new law came into being, to avoid having to allege ‘fault’ against their partner.

The figures below suggest that the number of applications for divorce and dissolution has increased by approximately 25% since the new law came into effect.

However, the change to a no fault basis and/or the simplified, largely online, process alone are not encouraging more people to divorce. The law reform came at a time when many families suffered unprecedented strain during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it must be right that a huge factor in the dramatic rise in the number of divorces/dissolutions since April 2022 can still be attributed to that.

How do the figures compare?

Figures show that in the first 10 months (April 22 – Jan 23) since the new law came in, 110,839 divorce and dissolution applications were issued. Although the first two months after the introduction of the new law/process saw highest demand, figures have been fairly consistent. If that continues, we can expect approx. 130,000 – 135,000 divorce/dissolution applications made this year.

Applications issued

Apr 2022


May 2022


Jun 2022


Jul 2022


Aug 2022


Sep 2022


Oct 2022


Nov 2022


Dec 2022


Jan 2023






Decrees of divorce or dissolution pronounced*







Average over last 3 years


 *Note: the above figures show the number of divorces concluding by what was then called Decree Absolute (now Final Order of Divorce), rather than divorce petitions (now called applications) issued

Whether the momentum continues is difficult to predict with certainty, but at Weightmans, we are seeing little signs of a slowdown.

Samantha Patel says:

The new law has introduced many positives:

  • It helps people focus on moving forward rather than the reason why the relationship broke down.
  • The online court portal has streamlined the divorce and dissolution process and increased efficiency.
  • The option to have a joint application is welcomed, as both parties can have the same level of control over the process. However, 78% of applications to date were made by a sole applicant, despite the expectation that many couples divorce ‘together’ with a joint application.

All of the above can help save money on legal costs.

However, now for some of the negatives:

  • It takes a minimum of 26 weeks from application to final order due to statutory waiting periods, which is longer than some cases prior to the reforms. As such, even in collaborative matters where steps to progress the divorce or dissolution are taken promptly and/or the couple have agreed a financial settlement in advance, it still takes between seven and eight months to conclude, compared to perhaps four to six months previously.
  • It’s so important for people to remember that the divorce/dissolution element only serves to end a marriage or civil partnership. Couples must take all the necessary additional steps to settle their money and children matters. The website does mention the need to resolve financial matters but it can get overlooked if a person has chosen not to seek legal advice.
  • Although a much easier system to navigate and access, it can lead to problems. An application for divorce or dissolution can be made at any time of day or night, perhaps leading to some to take the step prematurely. Before taking that step it is absolutely critical to make sure that they have access to early legal advice. Sometimes difficulties can arise if proceedings are issued prematurely, without a full consideration of the issues for the family, particularly if there are international aspects to the case.

In summary, Fiona says:

On balance, the change to the law is welcomed by family law professionals across the board, as the previous system was not fit for purpose. However, even if the ‘fault’ element has been removed from the legal process, divorce and dissolution remains a difficult journey to navigate emotionally, no matter what the circumstances or how amicable the split is. Negotiating the emotional rollercoaster can be as challenging as negotiating the legality of the divorce itself.

When it comes to the practicalities of the split, make sure to take advice from professionals. Seek the support of lawyers and financial advisors, including mortgage and pension experts. It can sometimes feel like speaking to a solicitor is adversarial or negative, but this isn’t the case at all. Think of it as information gathering and an exercise to make sure that nothing important is missed.

For further guidance and advice on divorce or dissolution, speak to our expert divorce solicitors.

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