How have divorce rates changed since no-fault divorce was introduced?

Liv Butler
Authored by Liv Butler
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - 11:20am

Separating couples can now get a divorce without having to blame each other for the breakdown of the marriage. Recognised as a “no-fault divorce”, couples are no longer required to prove the ground for divorce.

Now, the law encourages a softer, more constructive approach to separation, putting trust in the judgement of the couple involved. This is to ensure the online divorce process remains as straightforward and amicable as possible.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the impact of no-fault divorces and how divorce rates have changed since it was first introduced.

Comparison of divorce rates before and after no-fault divorce

No-fault divorce was announced in 2022 as part of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. This followed a long-awaited reform to divorce law that had not been updated since 1973.

Previous law meant that couples needed to rely on a ‘fact’ to prove that the relationship had broken down. These facts included:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Desertion for at least two years
  • Separation for at least two years, with consent of both parties
  • Separation of at least five years

Divorce applications have seen a huge jump in comparison to previous years since the new law came into play. Between April and June 2022, 33,234 applications were made, showing an increase of 22% from the same period in 2021. This was the highest number of applications seen in a decade.

Socioeconomic factors

The change in law has seen more couples make the joint decision to divorce, rather than having to rely on proving long periods of separation.

Nowadays, socioeconomic factors may influence a couple’s decision to divorce. This may include an individual’s income not being able to support the marriage, or perhaps the fact that one spouse can’t or won’t find a job. It could even include the inability to decide on the education of the couple’s child(ren).

Impact on children and families

The changes to the divorce process have had a huge impact on families. The new rules have seen positive changes for children especially. That’s because previous laws had commonly encouraged conflict and animosity between parents, especially as they are required to blame one another.

The removal of this ‘blame game’ has resulted in more amicable separations, significantly reducing the amount of conflict shown throughout the divorce proceedings and preventing a huge impact on the child’s emotional wellbeing.

Legal and policy implications

The following laws have been put in place following the introduction of the no-fault divorce:

  • Divorce language has been updated e.g. ‘Decree Nisi’ has become a ‘Conditional Order’
  • Introduction of joint applications where the couple both agree that the relationship has broken down
  • Removed the ability to contest a divorce
  • Introduced a minimum period of 20 weeks for the divorce proceedings
  • Keep the six-week period between the Conditional Order and when the Final Order is made

If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to seek legal advice from a professional divorce lawyer, who can treat your case with empathy and care. It can be a daunting process, but the right guidance will help make things easier.

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