Our Family Law Solicitor, Julia Sacco, has previously written about the implications of the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, introduced on 6th April which allowed divorcing couples to no longer attribute blame to one another for the breakdown of their marriage.

But despite the new no-fault divorce bill receiving widespread public support, with a 2019 YouGov poll showing 73 per cent of those surveyed would support the reform, discussion around the legislation was littered with misconceptions.

However, now that the dust has settled, it is far easier to separate truth from myth and we hope to clarify what this new legislation really means. After all, you should never believe everything you read.

Common misconceptions

The legislation has caused more divorces

ONS figures have revealed the number of couples filing for divorce this year has doubled. However, this shouldn’t be attributed to the perceived ‘ease’ of the divorce process. As the bill has been known about for quite some time, many predicted a spike in numbers as couples chose to wait to file until the legislation came into effect.

Some couples who were already going through divorce proceedings went as far as withdrawing from old proceedings and applying for a divorce under the new law. Therefore, it’s likely that these divorces were to have taken place regardless.

No fault divorce will be very quick

Whilst the process of issuing divorce proceedings on a no-fault basis is arguably simpler, the process still takes time and there is no such thing as a ‘quickie divorce’.

In fact, under the new system, people will now be required to wait for a 20 week ‘cooling off’ period from filing their divorce petition before being able to proceed with an application for a conditional order, previously called the decree nisi.

This step has been included to ensure that the two parties have time to reflect and have the opportunity to attempt to salvage the relationship. It also means that cases are likely to take a similar amount of time as before – current estimates of an uncontested divorce process are between six to eight months.

No-fault divorce is guaranteed to be cheaper

There are still the same number of steps when applying for divorce under this new process, such as drafting and submitting of documents. The Court fee has not changed at all since the introduction of the no-fault divorce, likely because the administrative process also remains similar.

However, the removal of the blame element can make the overall divorce process less acrimonious and therefore reduce legal costs. The usual reason for increased legal costs is when parties are unable to communicate effectively between themselves and their legal representatives.

The costs can also increase where there is a sense of resentment between the parties, which could be spurred on by a divorce petition listing all of the things that the petitioner feels caused the breakdown of the relationship or from the respondent drafting an angry defence to the divorce.

The purpose of this reform is to reduce conflict, but it is also worth noting the more subtle elements around the reform designed to reduce animosity. For example, changes in terminology: previously the person making the divorce application was known as the ‘Petitioner’, and the other was referred to as the ‘Respondent’. ‘Petitioner’ has now been changed to ‘Applicant’ in order to remove the assumption of blame simply because one party is filing the petition and the other person isn’t.

Overall, the new law is aimed at minimising conflict between separating couples, and making divorce not easier, but kinder.

At RHL Solicitors, we’re here to help make your life easier when it comes to legal support, while providing you with an exceptionally high standard of care.

Our Bristol-based team don’t just try to reach a settlement for you; we help to reach the very best outcome by tailoring our advice to your own individual needs.

If you are considering matters following the breakdown of a relationship or planning for the future in the event that your current relationship breaks down, contact our team who will be more than happy to discuss your circumstances further.

RHL Solicitors will have no delays or waiting times in advising you on your situation and will be quick to get you the support and care you deserve.