Exploring No-Blame Divorce: Impact on Divorce Rates in the UK

Exploring No-Blame Divorce: Impact on Divorce Rates in the UK

The way couples approach divorce has changed significantly in recent years, thanks to the introduction of no-blame divorce. This new approach aims to redefine the way couples end their partnership, with an aim to reduce acrimony and create an amicable end to the marriage – which is particularly important should there be children involved. 

No-blame Divorce: Legislation and Implementation

No-blame divorce is a legal procedure that enables couples to terminate their marriage without attributing fault to either party. It came into force on 6 April 2022 and is known as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

Unlike traditional divorce proceedings, which often involved proving fault, no-blame divorce prioritizes cooperation and mutual agreement. The key features include a simplified process, with no need for one party to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Reasons to apply for divorce would include adultery or unreasonable behaviour, making things difficult for those who simply no longer wanted to be married any more. 

This new legislation also means that the need for there to be ‘petitioner’ and ‘respondent’ is no longer necessary. Previously, even if the separating couple both agreed that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, one spouse had to divorce the other as the ‘applicant’ or ‘petitioner’. Instead, the new legislation has provided an option for what is known as a ‘joint application’. In this process, both spouses are referred to as applicants. 

By focusing on collaboration rather than blame, this new approach aims to create a more dignified and less confrontational environment for couples navigating a separation. It encourages open communication and cooperation. 

The new Act aimed to modernize the legal framework surrounding divorce and align it with contemporary societal values.

As well as removing fault and allowing joint applications, other additions included the introduction of a 20-week minimum timeframe from the start of proceedings to the divorce being granted. This allows couples more time to consider reconciliation or mediation.

Additionally, a lot of the divorce process can now be carried out online. Before, people could not apply for a joint divorce online, so separating couples did not have a way to organize their separation in a non-confrontational way. That’s now changed in line with the legislation update.  

The Impact on Divorce Rates

The impact of these changes is evident. According to data from the Ministry of Justice, between April and June 2022, there were 33,566 divorce applications, a 22% increase from the same period in 2021. These applications were made under a combination of the old and new laws, indicating a swift and widespread adoption of the new approach.

Additionally, the most recent data indicates that within the nine months following the implementation of the new law, there were 89,123 divorce applications. Of these, 78% were filed by sole applicants, while 22% were filed jointly, including those seeking the dissolution of civil partnerships. In contrast, there were 77,449 divorce applications filed between April 2021 and December 2021, prior to the introduction of the “no-fault” law.

This indicates that couples are taking the opportunity to utilize this new legislation. 

Is the New Legislation a Positive thing?

There are critics who argue that divorce is too easy now. As there’s no need to give a reason for the marriage breaking down, the process can be considered an option before any chance of mediation has been considered. 

Also, it’s possible to carry out our divorce online now. While this can make it more accessible, some critics argue that it may undermine the gravity of the process or lead to hasty decisions. However, digital access can make it accessible and affordable. 

While there are advantages and disadvantages that come with no-blame divorce, it’s clear that the change in the law has meant that more couples can split – and do so amicably and without pointing fingers.