The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which came into effect on 6 April 2022, represents a monumental shift in the landscape of family law within the United Kingdom. As the most significant legislative reform in this arena in over fifty years, this Act introduced a system of no-fault divorce, aiming to mitigate the adversarial nature of divorce proceedings and reduce the emotional strain on families, particularly children.


The Need for Reform

Historically, parties seeking divorce were compelled to prove one of five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, a two-year separation with consent, or a five-year separation without consent. This fault-based system often escalated conflicts, leading to increased emotional distress and unnecessary expense among all involved, including children who could be caught in the crossfire.

The new legislation arises from the longstanding critique that the need to assign blame in divorces not only inflamed conflicts but also complicated the legal proceedings unnecessarily. It became evident that a reform was necessary to align divorce laws with contemporary societal values that prioritise emotional well-being and cooperative conflict resolution.


Key Features of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020


  1. Introduction of No-Fault Divorce:
    Under the new Act, the requirement to prove fault or prolonged separation is abolished. Instead, one or both parties can initiate proceedings by simply submitting a statement declaring the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This change encourages a blame-free approach to divorce, allowing couples to focus on the important issues like the welfare of children and financial arrangements without the bitterness of proving fault.
  1. Simplification and Modernisation of Legal Processes:
    The Act updates several terms to reflect modern usage and make the legal process more accessible:
  • Application: now used instead of ‘Petition.’
  • Applicant: replaces ‘Petitioner.’
  • Conditional Order: takes the place of ‘Decree Nisi.’
  • Final Order: replaces ‘Decree Absolute.’

These changes in terminology are designed to demystify the process and make it less intimidating for individuals without legal expertise.


  1. Joint Applications:

For the first time, couples can to submit joint applications for divorce, dissolution, or separation. This provision recognises both parties as equal initiators of the process and removes the distinction between the applicant and respondent. Joint applications can lead to a more amicable resolution and significantly reduce the emotional tension involved in the proceedings.


  1. Reflective Period:

The legislation introduces a mandatory reflection period that extends across a total of 26 weeks, divided into a 20-week period from the initial application to the Conditional Order, followed by a six-week wait before the Final Order can be made. This timeframe ensures that parties have sufficient time to consider their decisions and, where possible, make arrangements regarding finances, property, and parenting.


Implications for Families

By removing the contentious requirement of proving fault, the new divorce process aims to preserve dignity and respect for both parties, thereby lessening the emotional impact on children. It also facilitates a smoother transition to post-divorce life by encouraging parties to focus on constructive negotiations over child arrangements and finances rather than revisiting past grievances.

The introduction of a reflection period further underscores the law’s intent to provide couples with the opportunity to reconsider their decision or, if reconciliation is not possible, to plan more effectively for the future. This period is also crucial for sorting out practical arrangements and ensures that decisions are made thoughtfully, considering the well-being of all family members.


Midwinters Solicitors’ Role in Facilitating Smoother Transitions

At Midwinters Solicitors, we recognise that each family’s situation is unique, and navigating the complexities of divorce can be challenging. Led by Lucy Webley, our family law team offers compassionate and comprehensive legal services tailored to the needs of modern families. Our approach is to provide sensitive and practical legal advice that respects the emotional dynamics of each case.

Whether you are considering a divorce under the new no-fault system, need assistance with financial settlements, or have concerns about child ?arrangements, our experts are here to help. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your specific needs and guide you through the legal options available to you.



The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is a progressive step towards a more humane approach to family law. By reducing conflict and simplifying the legal process, the Act is designed to protect the emotional and psychological well-being of families during the difficult process of divorce or separation.

For more information or to arrange a consultation, visit our family law section, or contact Lucy Webley or her PA, Linda, directly at 01242 514674. At Midwinters Solicitors, we are committed to guiding you through life’s legal challenges with professionalism and care.