No-fault divorce Bill closer to becoming a reality.

Last night, Monday 8 June 2020, MPs debated the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. Despite many Tory backbenchers raising criticism, the bill passed through to the second reading with MPs voting 231 to 16.

The Bill was originally put before the House of Commons by then Justice Secretary, David Gauke, on 13 June 2019, and was introduced with the intention of removing the ‘blame’ element from divorce to allow couples to move on as amicably as possible following marital breakdown.

Legal professionals, from practitioners, Judges and professional bodies such as Resolution, all welcome and have been championing for reform to divorce law for decades. The current law, which forces couples to apportion blame in order to divorce sooner than two years, is considered unnecessarily provocative and increases acrimony and hostility. Removing the blame element and requirement for one partner to be deemed “innocent” and the other partner “guilty” will undoubtedly improve relations between parties and promote more amicable splits.

Many of the criticisms put forward in the House of Commons yesterday focused on the timing of the new law, believing that 6 months was too short a period for couples to wait, preferring it to be 12 months in order to give parties a period of reflection and a chance to access therapeutic support in the hope of saving the marriage. Others quipped that if you make something easier to do, more people will do it, suggesting that more divorces will follow a change in the law. However, as debated last night, people do not decide to divorce lightly and removing the requirement to blame the other removes the bitterness and allows people to divorce more kindly, which in turn will positively impact the children of divorce rather than raising the temperature at the outset of proceedings

What changes will the no fault divorce Bill introduce? 

The Bill is set to:

  • replace the ‘five grounds’ with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown and will remove the requirement to establish a ‘fact’, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour; 
  • remove the possibility of contesting the divorce;
  • introduce an option for a joint application;
  • make sure language is in plain English, for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order.

When will the Bill come into force?

It is anticipated that the Bill could come into force as early as July 2020. The timetable may depend, in part, upon the outcome of the current uncertainties relating to the pandemic, but the bill appears to have cross-party support and so should become law in the coming months. 

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