Divorce applications have reached their highest level for a decade after no-fault legislation was introduced in England and Wales, figures show.

In April divorce laws were overhauled for the first time in 50 years, giving married couples the option of starting divorce proceedings without needing to apportion the blame for the breakdown of their marriage.

There were 33,566 divorce applications in April to June, with the majority under the new no-fault divorce legislation and from sole applicants, according to data from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The number of applications was the highest since the first quarter of 2012 – more than a decade ago – and is up 22% from the same period in 2021.

Of the applications between April and June, the vast majority (33,234) were made under the new law.

The law change also introduced a new minimum period of 20 weeks, for “meaningful” reflection, between starting proceedings and applying for a conditional order.

Before the no-fault divorce law was introduced, unless adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion could be proven, applicants had to live separately from their spouse for five years in order to get divorced.

More on Ministry Of Justice

Under the old divorce law, there were 19,758 decree absolutes (final orders) granted in April to June, down 35% from the same quarter in 2021.

For those divorcing under the old law, there was a rise in the average time of proceedings.

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Rules before the no-fault divorce law was brought in
‘A long time coming’: No-fault divorce law introduced in England and Wales

The average time from date of petition to receive a decree nisi (conditional order) was 36 weeks, up 12 weeks from the same period in 2021.

And the average period from date of petition to decree absolute was 56 weeks, up seven weeks from the equivalent quarter in 2021.

The MoJ said the increased time frames have been impacted by resourcing issues which have led to backlogs.