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No-fault divorce Bill dropped as Parliament is prorogued

November 2019

David Gauke – UK Parliament official portraits 2017
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A Bill to make divorce quicker and easier has fallen before it can become law following the proroguing of Parliament.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was dropped as it had failed to pass all its parliamentary stages before the parliamentary session was wrapped up.

Pro-family groups have welcomed the news. However, the plans could be revived in a new session of Parliament.

David Gauke, who introduced the Bill when he was Justice Secretary, said he hoped Parliament ‘can return to this asap’.

Under the plans, spouses would have been able to simply walk away from a marriage without having to give any reason and without their spouse being able to contest the decision. This is often called ‘no-fault’ divorce.

There would have been a minimum legal period of just six months between the application for divorce and it being finalised, reducing the opportunity for reconciliation.

Groups including the Coalition for Marriage consistently spoke out against the plans, saying they would be hugely damaging to the institution of marriage.

And a public consultation showed that most people were against the central proposal of the policy.

Under the existing law, one of five ‘facts’ must be proven to show that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. These include matters of fault, like adultery or desertion. But the Bill proposed to scrap the five facts.

The most recent figures available show that there were over 100,000 divorces in 2017. This would have likely risen even further if the Bill had become law. Supporters of no-fault divorce hope the Bill will return in a new Parliament.

Nigel Shepherd, head of family law at Mills & Reeve, told the Financial Times: ‘Although it is obviously disappointing that the prorogation of Parliament means that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will not proceed for now, I remain optimistic that it will be brought forward again soon.

He added, ‘Whatever government we have in the coming weeks I hope and expect this legislation to be revived’.

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