No fault divorces in England and Wales are a step closer since the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed its first Commons hurdle on 8 June.
The vast majority of MPs were in favour of the bill, with only 12 MPs voting against it, saying that it “undermined the commitment of marriage”.
Speaking in the Commons, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland commented: “No one sets out thinking that their marriage is going to end, no one wants their marriage to break down, none of us are therefore indifferent when a couple’s lifelong commitment is sadly deteriorated.
“It is a very sad circumstance but the law, I believe, should reduce conflict when it arises. Where divorce is inevitable, this bill seeks to make the legal process less painful.”
As the law currently stands, a spouse has to evidence either adultery, desertion, separation or unreasonable behaviour if they want to divorce. Whilst the other party can refuse to agree.
However, the new bill would allow a spouse to simply state that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, without giving further detail or placing blame on the other party.
Neither would it be possible to contest the divorce. And where couples are in agreement to the divorce they will be allowed to apply jointly.
Richard Johnson, divorce lawyer commented: “The bill will reduce conflict between the parties which should make it far easier for couples to reconcile their differences.
“It certainly won‘t pave the way for a quickie divorce though. Applicants, as they will be known, will have to wait six months between lodging the application and the divorce becoming final.”
The bill is partly prompted by Tini Owens who took her case to the Supreme Court. Mrs Owens was forced to remain in a loveless marriage because her husband, who thought the marriage was fine, refused to consent to the divorce. The court reluctantly rejected her appeal saying that it was up to parliament to change the law.
MPs who opposed the bill said it was “bad timing” and coming at a time when marriages are under intense strain because of Covid-19 and the lockdown.
The bill will reach the next stage in the process on 17 June. See how the no fault divorce bill progresses through through parliament here
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