The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received its first reading on 13 June. It will receive its second reading on a date to be announced.
The Bill will establish ‘no fault’ divorce by substituting section 1 of the Matrimonial Causes at 1973.
It will: Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (couples can opt to make this a joint statement). Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down. Introduce a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order may be made, allowing greater opportunity for reflection and, where couples cannot reconcile and divorce is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future. Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society, but when a relationship breaks down it cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other.
“By removing the unnecessary mud-slinging the current process can needlessly rake up, we’ll make sure the law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible.
“I’m proud to introduce this important legislation which will make a genuine difference to many children and families.” Margaret Heathcote, Chair of Resolution, said: “We’re delighted that the government is introducing legislation which will help reduce conflict between divorcing couples.
“Every day, our members are helping people through separation, taking a constructive, non-confrontational approach in line with our Code of Practice. However, because of our outdated divorce laws, they’ve been working effectively with one arm tied behind their backs.
“These proposals have the support of the public, politicians, and professionals. We therefore call on MPs and members of the House of Lords to pass this Bill without unnecessary delay, and end the blame game for divorcing couples as soon as possible.”