Is it the end of the blame game? | Davis Blank Furniss

Kirsty Morley Head of the Family Team

6th April 2022 is to be a momentous day in the arena of Family Law.  This is the day when the long-awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act of 2020 will finally be implemented. Its significance and impact – namely ‘no fault’ divorce – will be huge and has been longed for decades by family lawyers.

Under the new ‘no-fault’ rules, couples will no longer have to provide grounds for their divorce or civil partnership dissolution. Previously in England and Wales, couples could only prove their marriage had broken down as a result of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. But now they will only need to agree that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. The aim is to remove the element of blame from which can complicate a process which is already fraught with difficulties.

divorce law

Old archaic

The old archaic and outdated rules have caused a quandary for family solicitors for many years, particularly when approached by somebody seeking a divorce who has simply come to the end of the road in their marriage.  Often as family solicitors, we are presented with a situation where neither spouse has behaved badly, so there isn’t any blame; it is just that the couple have grown apart and have decided together that the best way forward for them is to end their marriage and go their separate ways.  In those circumstances, unless they were willing to wait until they had been living separately and apart for two years or more, a very difficult conversation had to be had with one of them that would unfortunately result in an exercise of “mud-slinging” against the other.

The reforms have been a long time coming.  We got near to a similar situation in the 1990s, but those reforms fell at the last hurdle and were never implemented. However, this time the Act has been passed, the new forms have been drafted and the new system will be going ahead.

The reform

There are some very basic changes to the system, which should hopefully soon become like second nature. There will no longer be a divorce petition; instead there will be a divorce application.  And there will no longer be a Petitioner; instead they will be called an Applicant.  The well-known terms of Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute will also be no more.  Instead, the couple will receive a Conditional Order and then a Final Divorce Order.  This also brings divorce in line with the process of civil partnership dissolution and ends the previously bizarre and unnecessary distinction between terms, given they were essentially the same.

However, one of the most important points of the new rules is that although when issuing the petition the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage of the parties still needs to be cited, this no longer needs to be supported by one of the five previous facts of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with consent, desertion and five years separation without consent.  In effect, a couple will be able to divorce just by saying that their marriage is over.

Further, one of the most wide-reaching reforms is that in certain circumstances a joint application for a divorce can be made by the couple together.  This will mean that they will both be Applicants and they will go through the process together, jointly applying for the Conditional and Final orders.  This is a truly ground-breaking change as it will also mean that one solicitor can act for both parties which is something that was previously not possible due to potential conflicts of interest.

There are clearly bound to be some initial teething problems as it begins to rollout, and it is likely that there will be a large initial rush to issue applications that have been stored up for the last few months whilst awaiting the new system to go live. However, I am sure that the system will seem like second nature very quickly and the blame game of the past will seem like a dim and distant memory.  Roll on the onset of amicable divorce!

For more information on our Family Law services, and to contact Kirsty, please click here.

Found this article useful? You might be interested in some of our others:


Read what our clients have to say...

View All

Excellent experience start to finish – always very responsive to any queries and the turnaround on the property I was buying was very quick, even in the busy time leading up to stamp duty deadline. Jenny was always very helpful and went above and beyond to close on a short timescale.

Ben Armitage

“Very approachable, practical solutions to problems, but most of all very responsive which I personally think is very important because if you need help, you need it quickly, or at least to know someone is looking at it for you”.

Joanne Rowe, Finance Director, Greater Manchester Chamber

“Always able to contact, very approachable, friendly and professional”

Nives Feely, JAM Recruitment

“I believe I have been able to establish a professional working relationship with everyone I have come into contact. Importantly, I sense the relationships which have been established give me the confidence that I can make contact with Davis Blank Furniss at any time and on any matter. I would also like to express my thanks to the very impressive “gatekeepers” who work in reception, not only for making me very welcome, but also for their professionalism”

Bill Pryke, CEO, Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

“Thank you for your efficient and friendly help throughout this process. We have had it easy but your approach has been part of that”.

Robert Amsbury (Conveyancing Client)

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you personally for the ongoing support and assistance the firm has offered to our parents over the years. I hope also that we may be able to call on you if necessary in the future.”

Valerie Fisher (Probate Client)

“Jo always provides great service, understands our needs and delivers on her promises. Our needs are relatively simple but the complexity arises out of the volume of work and short time frames, Jo always delivers.”

Peter Fernandez, Corporate Director at Royal Bank of Scotland

“A big thank you to all who dealt with my wife’s claim… We would not hesitate to recommend Davis Blank Furniss to anyone that may be in a situation like we have been…”

Anon (Personal Injury client)

“Before putting my case in Kirsty (Morbey)’s capable hands I’ve met a couple of other solicitors. None of them listen to me as intently as Kirsty and showed me as much empathy and understanding as she did. Simultaneously she was able to look at my case from legal perspective, explain all the options and follow each of our meetings with written summary of the discussed matters (in timely manner). Her advice was invaluable and led me to successfully ending the case matter (hopeful for good). I’m forever grateful for he work and would definitely recommend her to anyone looking for reliable, knowledgeable and committed solicitor”.

Anon (Family client)
5 star service

Our Manchester office is rated 5 stars on Google