The (Re-) Introduction No Fault Divorce – What Does It Mean In Reality?

So, the New Year of 2020 support the immediate reintroduction into Parliament of the much talked about Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2019/20.

After two previously aborted attempts to introduce this Bill to Parliament, the first as a result of the Prorogation debacle and the second as a result of the calling of a General Election, it was refreshing to see a majority government acting quickly to reintroduce the Bill to Parliament.

For those that take an interest in this kind of thing, the Bill introduces the promise of no fault divorce being legislated for the first time in UK law. Equally interesting is that there is genuine cross party majority support across the house for the introduction of this legislation.

If enacted, it would also see the end to what has been a 20+ year campaign by Resolution for the introduction of no fault divorce into UK law.

Whilst it is easy to celebrate the introduction of this Bill, it is probably fair to say that given its troubled journey to date, genuine celebration should not begin until the legislation is actually enacted and no fault divorce becomes a fact of the UK legal landscape.

Reflecting on this however has caused me to think more about my role not only as a family lawyer, but also as a trained collaborative family lawyer. For many years now, members of Resolution have been committed to the constructive and non-confrontational approach enshrined in our Code of Practice that is familiar to members and clients alike. 

However, the imminent introduction of no fault divorce brings back into focus for me the positive benefits of engaging in the collaborative family law process in order to resolve issues in relation to children and finances.

To those unfamiliar with the collaborative family law process, both parties instruct independent legal advisers in order to enter into the collaborative process but, as part of that instruction, agree at the outset that there will be no court proceedings and that all discussions will take place face to face in four-way meetings. These meetings often involve the assistance of other neutrals such as accountants, financial advisers, family therapists and barristers.

By taking this approach, it is proven how much more beneficial this can be to enable parties to work through the issues in the most constructive and non-confrontational way and help them retain integrity and respect for each other, and enable them to focus on any children involved.

It is my sincere hope that the introduction of no fault divorce will aid those entering the divorce process to reflect and consider how putting aside blame and fault, and focusing instead on what is really important to bring these difficult matters to a conclusion, can be of huge benefit to all involved.

I for one hope that we will see a higher take-up and more interest from everyone involved in the family law community for the collaborative law process as one of the better ways to resolve any matters that couples and families need to deal with.

It remains to be seen whether this can be achieved but certainly the introduction of this Bill, and thereafter legislation, can only be a positive step in this regard.

Can Collaborative Divorce Save Time And Money As Well As Protecting Families?

There is no question that divorce and separation is a time of high stress and emotion for all parties involved, including children who are caught up in proceedings.

What is clear from research carried out by Resolution is that parties who separate or divorce using the Collaborative process properly, can often minimise much of this stress and emotional anxiety.

There has been much said and written about traditional family litigation being phased out in preference for alternative ways of resolving problems, with lawyers increasingly encouraged to work with parties to find amicable and constructive ways forward in divorce and separation matters.

Whilst the majority of clients that we now encounter respond to this kind of approach, we also acknowledge that divorce is still a difficult and painful process. Those of who practice Collaborative Family Law, can see the obvious benefits of using this process for the above reasons, but could this actually provide additional benefits in terms of time, money and future family relationships?

By entering into the Collaborative process, parties to a divorce or separation are assisted by Collaborative trained professionals who will assist them in resolving their own issues in an open and constructive environment. It is this environment that can save time and money, not only through the process, but thereafter.

By also committing not to enter into court proceedings, this also has the added advantage of removing the threat of such proceedings over the parties and encourages people to work together to find lasting outcomes for themselves and their families.

Obviously, by entering into open and constructive discussion and avoiding court proceedings, this can save considerable time and cost in terms of the processes that people employ.

However, over and above this, the way that parties interact with each other during the Collaborative process, in terms of reaching agreements around their separation, financial affairs and their children, creates a framework for future discussions and a format of resolving disputes that can work to protect the best interests of families.

When looking at the benefits of the Collaborative process, we believe that these can fairly be summarised as follows;

The protection of children

Children are often impacted by contested divorce proceedings and anyone who has gone through the court process knows how difficult this can be. By collaborating to find the best solutions for themselves and their children, parents often find a new way of communicating that is centred around the best interests of their children in the future and this can take away a huge amount of the potential distress that conflict often causes.

Saving time and money
When compared to litigation, the Collaborative process will invariably be considerably cheaper and quicker. Traditional litigation can often cause parties to become entrenched in their positions making the process slower and even more expensive over time.

The protection of extended family
Whenever there is litigation, inevitably, extended family and friends become engaged and are often forced to choose who they support. This can have long-lasting impact on both family and friends and ultimately damage longer term relationships not only with the parties but also the children at the centre of the dispute.


In an increasing age of transparency, many clients want to keep their divorce and financial affairs out of the public domain. The Collaborative process is entirely confidential and can maintain everyone’s privacy.

In summary, we believe that the Collaborative process achieves not only a high success rate in terms of outcome, but more importantly meets parties needs and requirements in terms of preserving their dignity and respect, as well as being a timely and cost effective process . It can also have additional benefits in terms of the protection of family relationships long after any divorce or separation is concluded in a legal sense.

Contact details of qualified Collaborative professionals in the Black Country area who can provide you with more information can be found here

Is my case too big for Collaborative?

I am often asked the question as to whether the circumstances of a particular case would be suitable for a collaborative solution or whether the case if too big or the circumstances not right.

In short, I do not believe that there are many cases, if any, that are not suitable for collaboration, provided that the parties and their lawyers enter into the discussions in the right way.

Recently, I have been involved in a divorce case which has been resolved using the collaborative procedure between two parties with total assets of somewhere between £10 million and £12 million.

This was further complicated by the fact that there was a trading business of which both parties were equal shareholders with some disagreement over the ongoing treatment of this business and its day to day running and operation.

Whilst this kind of case may not for the fainthearted, it is important to remember that with two experienced collaborative lawyers, a case like this is not impossible and can be dealt with.

What helped in this case is that both parties had seen friends go through more “traditional” divorces and witnessed first hand the consequences of litigation and bitter negotiation that only served to increase both the animosity and cost for everyone involved.

What both parties recognised was that they had two children who they both wanted to put first in their consideration’s and both of the parties were sensible and experienced entrepreneurs who could see the benefit of dealing with their divorce in a different way.

Having both instructed experienced collaborative lawyers, the first step was to speak to both parties as to their reasons and motivations, before the collaborative lawyers then spent some time together working out where they saw issues between the parties and preparing themselves for a face-to-face meeting.

Of particular importance was to get the agenda right to the very first meeting.

The reason I say this is that both of the collaborative lawyers recognised the power of getting early agreement.  What became apparent quite early was that there were a issues where one or both parties expected there to be disagreement, but it appeared that matters could be resolved quickly by agreement between them.  These items went on to the agenda early so that the parties could get used to agreeing things that they might have thought would be difficult.

More challenging matters then appeared towards the middle of the agenda, when the parties had already got into a culture of agreement between themselves.

Whilst I am not pretending for one moment that this was an easy process for either party, or their lawyers, the benefits of reaching agreements in this way are huge.

By both parties preparing well for that first meeting, as well as reaching some really sensible conclusions around the business, around 90% of the case was dealt with and resolved at that first meeting, which of course had a huge impact on the saving of legal and accountancy fees.

Whilst the case is not fully concluded and there are still some finer details to be ironed out, what it does show is that by taking a creative and constructive approach to these kinds of issues, individuals and families can reach fair and lasting solutions in an efficient and cost-effective way by using the collaborative process.

It is my opinion that cases are few and far between that do not fit into this model, provided the willingness is there to enter into this kind of process and the right level of support is provided by the collaborative lawyers and financial neutrals that need to get involved.

Contact details of qualified solicitors in the Black Country area who can provide you with more information on collaborative practice can be found here.