Why no-fault divorces mean the end of the blame game for couples wanting to split

Video report by Reporter Ellie Pitt; words by Digital Journalist Jocelyn Evans

Changes to the rules on getting a divorce mean a "blame game" between splitting spouses is no longer required by law.

From April 6 no-fault divorce is being introduced to marriages and civil partnerships.

Here's what that means, why it's being welcomed, and how it could improve relationships between separated couples.

What were the rules before April 6?

Before April 6 all couples trying to get a divorce have to list a reason for doing so that hinges on the behaviour of one of the parties.

That means, even if a marriage has amicably broken down and a mutual decision been made to separate, one spouse has to make an accusation about the other's conduct.

The new laws apply to both marriages and civil partnerships. Credit: Unsplash

The previous "grounds for divorce" were adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for at least two years (if you both agree to divorce), or separation for at least five years (if only one party wants a divorce).

Legally having to have one of the above reasons for a divorce has been criticised as outdated, and increasing tensions at an already difficult time.

What is the new no-blame divorce?

The new law removes the need for a reason, allowing one spouse or the couple jointly to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

It also stops one partner contesting a divorce if the other wants one - this has previously been viewed as allowing domestic abusers to exercise further coercive control over their victim.

Couples will now be able to make a joint application for divorce.

And the changes do away with old-fashioned language making the process easier to understand, for example, "decree nisi" will just be known as conditional order and "decree absolute" to final order.

Why has the law on divorce been changed?

Describing it as "the biggest shake-up of divorce law for 50 years," the government says the changes will reduce the impact of divorce on a couple and in particular children.

"The Bill will bring divorce law in line with the government’s approach to family justice – avoiding confrontation wherever possible and reducing its damaging effect on children in particular," the government said.

The Law Society welcomed the changes too: "No-fault divorce will reduce conflict, allowing couples to focus on important issues like children, property and finances."

The government website has step-by-step guidance on how to go about getting a divorce, available here.

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