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Wales Spike in ‘no-fault’ divorce applications

An aerial view at sunrise of Newport city centre

According to the Law Society, there were over 12,000 new divorce applications filed as ‘no fault’ from the period April 2021 to April 2022. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 introduced in the same period appears to have caused a spike in divorce applications. In response, specialist divorce lawyers like Brookman have been faced with an increase in enquiries on questions about the new legislation. In this article, we look at how the new laws affect divorcing couples in Wales and England. 

Wales divorce statistics by region 

Data from 2018 – 2020 from the Welsh Government reveals there were 248,000 divorced people out of a population of 2,545,700 in North Wales. In Mid and South West Wales there were 53,600 divorces based on a population of 569,300, and in South East Wales, there were 117,500 out of 1,230,60. It is now expected that these figures will rise. 

What do the new laws mean? 

The new Act is the biggest transformation of divorce laws in around 50 years. Essentially, the new rules now state that in order to get a divorce, spouses no longer have to blame the other party. In addition, divorcing couples no longer have to wait for a two-year period of separation. Ex-couples can now provide a statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown of the marriage’ as a sufficient reason to end a marriage of civil partnership. 

The speed of no-fault divorce 

It is thought that these fundamental changes will accelerate divorce applications due to the perceived easier and speedier process i.e., without blame there is less conflict, with less conflict divorce proceedings are typically quicker. However, this is not always the case as under the new rules there is a minimum time period until completion of 26 weeks to ensure there is time for reflection. There is also an additional waiting period of six weeks at least before a conditional order can be made. 

The cost of no-fault divorce 

Another misconception is that divorce is now cheaper. However, again this is not necessarily true. It is believed that due to the speed and ease of the new proceedings, less expense is needed for legal fees. But, typically, legal fees for divorces are linked to complex issues relating to child care or maintenance, and or protracted financial matters. Divorce does not automatically sever financial ties between divorcing partners, plus mutual agreements will need to be made outside of the official ending of a marriage. Crucially, in some situations, the new laws could create a barrier to financially weaker spouses, who, in the spirit of staying amicable do not press for the financial claims they are entitled to. 

Other changes to divorce laws 

Some of the terminology used in divorce has also changed to provide greater accessibility and in some cases, less adversarial language that can contribute to more conflict. For example, instead of ‘petitioners’ initiating a divorce, they are now known as ‘applicants’ and similarly, the petition is now called an application. Prior to the new laws, the Latin wording, Decree Nisi was used to describe the document that confirms the court sees no reason to refute the divorce application. This document is now known as a Conditional Order. A Final Order, previously known as a Decree Absolute, is now the name of the document that officially ends a marriage. Finally, if you want a divorce as an individual, you are still able to do this, but there is now an option to make a joint application, a move which is encouraged to again reduce potential conflict. 

If you are considering divorce, it is often worthwhile speaking to an experienced family lawyer, especially if you have financial matters and child arrangements to discuss.