Family law experts welcome end of 'blame game' divorces

Associate Solicitor at Ellis Jones Lauren Harley is expecting enquiries about the introduction of new ‘no fault’ divorces
Associate Solicitor at Ellis Jones Lauren Harley is expecting enquiries about the introduction of new ‘no fault’ divorces

Family law experts in Dorset are preparing for a surge in applications when new laws allowing ‘no fault divorces’ come into force.

Ellis Jones Solicitors has welcomed the end of the ‘blame game’ in the biggest shake-up of divorce law in England and Wales for half a century.

The changes – coming into force on Wednesday April 6 – mean that a couple will be able to split without having to pin the fault on one person or the other.

Ellis Jones – with more than 170 staff including 21 Partners in five offices across the south coast as well as London – has a well-established family team which is recognised in the Legal 500 guide for 2022.

Associate Solicitor Lauren Harley, from Ellis Jones’ Family Law team, said:

“The move to ‘no fault’ divorce has been the subject of campaigns for several years.

“In 2020, citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the reason for marital relationship breakdown was the most common type of petition before the court in opposite sex and same-sex marriages.

“Moving the focus from dredging up the negative events of the past and the animosity which may have subsided following the initial marriage breakup is seen as a positive way forward for parties living through a relationship breakdown.

“Although some parties have been keen to push divorces through prior to April 6 we are expecting a spike in applications from people who have been holding fire until the change in the law.”

Lauren, who is a member of the body for family law professionals Resolution, added: “As possibly the biggest shake-up in divorce law in 50 years in England and Wales, there will also be many questions about the new process.

“It is important to note that divorcing couples will still need to separately reach settlement on financial matters and arrangements for their children.

“In addition, the new ‘no fault’ process will take about six months so although it may make divorces less acrimonious it may also make them slower in some cases.”

Under the new law when filing for a ‘no fault’ divorce, there will be no need to particularise why a marriage has irretrievably broken down and the ability to dispute whether a marriage has broken down is being removed.

A couple can jointly petition for divorce and once the petition is issued this starts a 20-week reflection period after which time they can apply for a conditional order followed by a six week wait before the final order can be applied for.

The option for one person to apply for a divorce is not removed under the rules.
Latest divorce statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice on March 31, showed that number of divorce petitions in the last quarter of 2021 was down 26% on the same period in 2020.

Lauren is the regional liaison committee representative for Dorset Resolution.
Joint Heads of Family at Ellis Jones Deborah Leask and Sean McNally were among the firm’s solicitors praised in the latest Legal 500.


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