Following its second reading in the House of Commons on 8th June the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill moved a step closer to becoming law. The Bill was passed by 231 votes to 16, and it is thought that ministers could fast-track the reforms to receive royal assent within a matter of days in order to implement the legislation.
A small group of mainly Tory MPs voted against the bill, claiming that dramatically speeding up the divorce process would give no time for couples to take a step back and try to reconcile their differences. This was said to be especially important under the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus outbreak, where couples have been forced to live closely with their spouse for an extended period, often with worries about money, job security and health undermining their relationship.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will introduce the concept of “no-fault” divorce, which aims to remove unnecessary conflict between couples and allow them to focus on important issues like their children, property and finances. Unless they have been living apart for two years, currently for couples wishing to divorce one party must allege fault or blame in the other, even in cases where the separation is mutually agreed and where there is no underlying animosity. Usually the “blame” comes in the form of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. These allegations can lead to needless hostility and make reaching mutually acceptable agreements much harder. Studies have also shown that family break-ups were the biggest factor affecting children’s mental health, leading to emotional and behavioural problems in children of divorcing parents.
Opening the debate in the House of Commons, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland summed up the aims of the bill: “No-one sets out thinking their marriage is going to end. No-one wants their marriage to break down…..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.”
It can be stressful and complicated when relationships break down. Bretherton Law’s experienced Family and Child Law Solicitors have been helping people with changes in their circumstances for over 50 years. We are members of Resolution and Accredited in Family and Child Law by the Law Society. For honest, sympathetic advice call Atifha Aftab on 01727 869293, or make an appointment via the contact form below.