21 September 2022

Changes to Law on Divorce and the Grounds for Them

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Changes to Law on Divorce and the Grounds for Them

After nearly 50 years, new legislation has brought long-awaited changes to the divorce law in England and Wales. The new, no-fault divorce system aims to reduce the conflict and animosity between separating partners. With no ‘blame game’ to play, both parties can part ways amicably and move forward with their lives.

The previous UK divorce law was outdated and needed reforms. Under the old law, it required the couples to assign blame and prove an irretrievable relationship breakdown by relying on any of the following grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable or intolerant behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation for 2 years with consent
  • Separation for 5 years where one party contests the divorce

In addition to appointing blame for a marital breakdown, the separating couple had to provide evidence to support their divorce petition (i.e. with a statement). With the new divorce law, the divorcing couple can follow a more amicable approach to divorce without apportioning blame.

The key changes introduced within the new divorce law include:

No Longer Required to Prove ‘Fault’

Under the current law, if a marriage does not work out, the applicant can rely solely on the irretrievable breakdown as the reason for getting a divorce. They do not have to prove the relationship breakdown on any of the aforementioned grounds.

Without assigning blame, the couple can dissolve the marriage without needless arguments. Unlike the old law, the new law aims to reduce the conflict between the divorcing couple. It is a positive change that reflects the modern social attitude towards divorce.

Divorce cannot be contested

Under the previous law, a spouse could very easily contest a divorce (perhaps through reasons relating to resentment) and delay the divorce process, which increased legal expenses a lot.

Fortunately, now neither party can contest the divorce under the new law (unless there is a legal reason behind it), which allows for the couple to avoid lengthy court battles.

Joint Application

For a more amicable approach to divorce, the new law allows the couple to apply for divorce jointly. Submitting a joint application for the divorce will expedite the divorce procedure while removing the hostility from the process.

Divorce Terms

The more familiar terms under the old legislation were ‘decree nisi’ and ‘decree absolute’. Currently, the language is updated, and the older terms are replaced by Conditional Order and Final Order. Additionally, a divorce petition is now called a divorce application and the person submitting the application is called the applicant.


Under the new law, it takes at least six months from the application stage to the final stage of getting a divorce. There are two waiting or cooling-off periods to give the couple time to reflect and reconsider the divorce.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Connaught Law and authors accept no responsibility for loss that may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught Law.

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