New Divorce Law April 2022

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Ending the blame game

Following years of campaigns to remove the need to ‘blame’ one person in a couple, the Government has responded to calls to reform the divorce law. So from April 6th 2022, one of the biggest changes to the divorce laws in almost 50 years is being introduced in the hope of making the process more amicable. This will remove the requirement for one person to blame their spouse for the breakdown of the marriage.


One of the cases which highlighted how outdated the current law is was the case of Owens vs Owens, which began in 2015. Mrs Owens wanted a divorce and cited her husband’s “unreasonable behaviour” as the reason for it. However, the judge disagreed and dismissed her petition saying that this behaviour was not sufficiently unreasonable and “could be expected within a marriage.” This meant they remained unhappily married until 2020 when she could apply again based on 5 years separation without requiring her husband’s consent. This case highlights what can happen with the current law as it stands where a husband and wife are forced to remain married when one wants a divorce.

The New Divorce Law

Under the current law, people can only apply for a divorce if they can prove to the court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and that one of the following five grounds are relevant to that breakdown.: 1. Adultery, 2. Unreasonable behaviour, 3. Desertion, 4. 2 years separation with consent, 5. 5 years separation without consent. This frequently means that an element of blame must be put on the person receiving the application. This has been known to add unnecessary animosity, stress and increased costs to an already fragile situation. However, under the new law couples will be able to divorce without having to cite blame and the fault element will be removed. Only one ground will remain for divorce and that will be that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’

How will this affect me?

Because you will be able to divorce without blaming the other person for their behaviour or adultery, there will no longer be a need to prove the breakdown of the marriage only to confirm that an irretrievable breakdown has occurred. This will prevent a divorce petition from being defended. There will also now be an opportunity for a joint application. Currently, only one spouse can apply for divorce but the new system will allow both parties to apply on a joint, amicable basis but there will still be an option for a single application.

There will also be changes in the legal language used. For example, the first stage, known currently as Decree Nisi will be changed to ‘Conditional Order’. The final stage, currently referred to as Decree Absolute, will be referred to as the ‘Final Order’.

A period of at least 20 weeks between issuing the divorce application and applying for the Conditional Order will help ensure that couples do not rush their divorce and can consider whether it is right for them to end their marriage. The six-week period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order will remain. These changes will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Some questions remain as to how these changes will work in practice including how the courts will address costs and what will happen if one party withdraws from a joint application. However, the changes seem to be a welcome positive step towards a more amicable divorce.

If you need help and advice about this or any other family matter, we have a team of experienced family lawyers in our offices in Llandudno and Conwy who can help you with all aspects of divorce, separation and civil partnership. To talk to them, telephone Llandudno 874774 or Conwy 596596 or email