Article by Nicole Ergis
It is a well-known fact that relationships and marriages can end simply because both parties change and want different things in life from one another. However, prior to April 2022, to divorce your spouse, there had to be grounds for divorce – which was the marriage breaking down. This also needed to be supported by at least one of five reasons: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years of separation (with consent from both parties), or five years of separation (which does not require consent). The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2022 reforms divorce law and removes the concept of fault.
The no fault divorce first came onto the political agenda in 2015, when MP Richard Bacon presented the idea to the House of Commons. After several years of campaigns and debate, the government confirmed in 2018 that the no fault divorce would be introduced following the infamous case of Owens v Owens  UKSC 41. On April 6th 2022, the no fault divorce came into effect in the UK, becoming the most significant reform to divorce law since 1967. The no fault divorce applies to civil-partnership dissolution also, removing the need to blame one partner for the breakdown of the relationship through one of the five reasons supporting the previous grounds for divorce.
Arguably the most recognised advantage to the no fault divorce is that it removes the ‘blame game’ for couples seeking a divorce. Baroness Hale, the former President of the Supreme Court advocated in favour of the no fault divorce. Baroness Hale stated that it allowed for separation without holding either party accountable, easing some of the stress and pain that comes with the process of separation/divorce, and removed the likelihood of complex, long legal battles in court.
Alongside this, it is well argued that the no fault divorce removes a lot of the stress and tension that children may be exposed to when their parents/guardians go through the process. Taking away the tension and the need to focus on the faults in a relationship will enable parties to find the negotiation of important factors involved in separation a much easier process. For example, agreeing to the process involved in the care of their children, benefits both the separating parties and the children involved.
A very important advantage to the introduction of the no fault divorce is that it may help those parties stuck in abusive and controlling relationships leave their partner. Previously, abusive partners were able to use their ability to contest the divorce to keep their partner in the relationship, but this is no longer the case. It will also allow the abusee to leave the relationship without having to make allegations about the abuser, ultimately making it an easier way out of the relationship.
Elaine Parker, a victim of domestic abuse and now founder of dating app Safer Date spoke on her experience to The Mirror, and her view of the no fault divorce; “It’s really not that simple when you are in a violent relationship or marriage. The divorce law has been so antiquated for years. If you are the one that is being abused – to have to report what is being done to you can have so many negative repercussions. Until now, abusers have used the pitfalls of divorce law to trap victims in the marriage because they were able to contest the allegations. It’s finally been recognised how outdated the original law is and I’m pleased to see these changes implemented.“
There are still some who argued against the reform, for several reasons.
It is argued that the no fault divorce has made divorce an easy option for couples struggling in their relationship, instead of encouraging them to work through tough times. Others have raised potential risks to the no fault divorce, stating that this then means that individuals do not give enough thought about marriage beforehand and that it removes the significance of marriage in society. This could lead to more ‘broken’ families.
Another disadvantage is that one party may not feel as though justice has been served, for example, if one party to the relationship caused adultery, the no fault divorce allows them to escape accountability, leaving the other party with a sense of injustice.
The no fault divorce is now in place, removing stress, tension, and accusatory behaviours for couples whose relationship has broken down irretrievably. It should create a more commendable separation for both parties and any other individuals involved, such as children. It will benefit law firms by removing time spent on such cases aiding with the backlog. It will also allow couples to collaborate and provide essential documents and free up time to focus on important matters such as financial proceedings, property, assets, and children.