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MPs back ‘no fault’ divorce

July 2020

Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland
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The House of Commons has passed a government bill to make divorce even quicker and easier than it already is.

MPs voted in favour of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill which has already passed the House of Lords.

Currently, for a couple to start divorce proceedings immediately, one spouse has to allege that adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion has taken place.

But under the new bill, a spouse will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

The bill also removes the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce. At present, someone wishing to obtain a divorce without the consent of their spouse must live apart from them for five years.

In a letter to the Telegraph, MPs including Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir John Hayes, and Fiona Bruce urged the government to focus on helping couples reconcile instead of ‘undermining the commitment of marriage’.

They said the bill was badly timed, arguing that many ‘otherwise durable’ marriages were under ‘intense Covid-related strain’.

In the same newspaper, columnist Jill Kirby wrote, ‘Removing allegations of unfaithfulness or unreasonable behaviour from the mix will make the process more emollient for some. But for those who feel they are the wronged party it is likely to create strong feelings of injustice.

‘Most importantly, in either situation, children will still be the victims. Their parents’ freedom to start afresh, often with new partners, will have profound consequences for them.

‘Research data is clear: children whose parents split up experience lasting psychological, educational and financial disadvantage compared with children of intact families. Simplifying the divorce process does not alter that fact.’

She added, ‘The danger inherent in the new law is that marriage is no longer seen as a lifelong commitment but a temporary arrangement… In the interests of a generation of children, the government should be giving married couples a helping hand, not a quick exit.’

Mike Judge, editor