Happy 1st Anniversary?

26th April 2023

In April 2022, one of the biggest reforms in Family Law happened with the introduction of the ‘no-fault divorce’. One year on, we’ve taken some time to reflect on the change and the impact it has had on the way people deal with their divorce.

Divorces appear to have become more amicable since the reform, given that requirement for couples to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage has been removed, and the fact that either or both of the couple jointly can now apply for the divorce has helped to minimise the acrimony involved in the process.

According to government statistics, 22% of 89,123 divorce applications under the new law were made by joint parties.

The ability for parties to apply for a divorce jointly has meant that couples feel much more on an equal footing at the outset of their proceedings.

The process itself is much more straightforward, meaning that there has also been an increase in couples dealing with the divorce itself themselves and obtaining legal advice with regards to the financial settlement only. Therefore, couples are also minimising the issue of costs with regards to the divorce process. With the development of the online portal, save for one or two teething issues, it seems to have worked well for lay parties.

Separating couples have focused their discussions on the children and the finances of the relationship but these such discussions have now started on a much more positive footing. This has meant that it has become much easier to negotiate and reach an agreement without the need for court applications.

With the removal of the previous fault-based divorce, the process and discussions have been less emotionally charged and we have found that clients have been able to focus on the future as opposed to blaming the other person for any wrong-doings and the breakdown of the marriage. Our initial negotiations have become a lot more constructive.

However, there are concerns surrounding the increase in couples embarking on what is commonly referred to as a ‘DIY divorce’, without taking any legal advice on the divorce or a financial settlement. Many parties therefore fail to deal with financial matters correctly and/or adequately and in turn this can leave them in a difficult position in the future.

With the reformed divorce process having an increased lengthy timescale of 26 weeks, it is important to make the most of this time and ensure that couples are receiving legal advice to avoid ignorance of their financial rights and claims on divorce.

Looking ahead, the Law Commission has begun work reviewing the laws governing finance on divorce, however, it is anticipated that any potential reform in this regard will be a lengthy wait similar to that of the divorce reforms. A consultation on any proposed reforms does not appear likely to emerge until 2025 at the earliest.

Family Law Services


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