The so called “no fault divorce” system came into force on the 6th April 2022. The major change to the divorce reform is that the concept of fault (adultery or unreasonable behaviour) or a period of separation have effectively been done away with. Under the new law, either one or indeed both spouses, jointly, simply make a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down - That statement in itself is conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and will enable the Court to make a Divorce Order.
There is still a two stage process. Previously, after a Petition for Divorce was filed and the normal procedure had gone through, a Decree Nisi of Divorce was pronounced which effectively was the Court certifying that they are satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been proved. There was then a statutory waiting period of 6 weeks and 1 day before you could apply for the Decree Absolute.
Under the new system, we still have a two stage approach but the concept of Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute have been removed. Under the new Act, the terminology has changed, a Decree Nisi is known as a “Conditional Divorce Order”. The Decree Absolute is known as “Final Divorce Order”. There is a timing requirement in the sense that at least 20 weeks must pass between the filing of a Divorce Petition to the making of the Conditional Divorce Order. There is still the statutory period between Conditional Divorce Order and Final Divorce Order of 6 weeks. This means under the new law a divorce will take a minimum of 26 weeks.
In reality, many divorces under the previous law took more than 26 weeks in any event as the parties often are negotiating children matters or financial matters prior to the divorce concluding. Whilst the new procedure therefore may represent a step backwards insofar as timescales are concerned, what it does give is certainty with regard to timescales and also the removal of the fault concept of marriage breakdown.