No-fault divorce: High rise in applications expected as new law introduced in England and Wales

Lawyers are expecting a rise in applications from separating couples when no-fault divorce is introduced in England and Wales on Wednesday.

In what has been described as the biggest reform of divorce laws for 50 years, couples will not have to either separate for at least two years – increasing to five if one party does not consent – or allocate blame to legally end their marriage.

Last Thursday was the final day for couples to divorce under the existing system and solicitors said, even before then, many delayed in anticipation of the new law.

The latest divorce statistics, published on Thursday, showed that the number of divorce petitions in the last quarter of 2021 was down 26% on the same period in 2020.

There are fears that an initial surge in cases coupled with the new technology necessary to implement no-fault divorce will put added pressure on courts, it has been reported. However, in the medium to longer term, the reform would be likely to reduce the burden on courts because they would require less judicial oversight as there would be no grounds for a spouse to contest the divorce.

Meanwhile, the government has said it would look at the financial settlement process, in which judges currently have broad discretion, and it is also being urged by bodies including Family Solutions group to look at ways of taking divorcing couples away from the courts altogether to put the welfare of children centre stage.