No Fault Divorce Passes the First Hurdle
15 June 2020 by Ties Bouwmeester
The second reading of the “no fault” divorce bill has now taken place and was voted in by MPs with an overwhelming majority of 231 votes to 16.
At the moment, a spouse has to prove unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion has taken place for divorce proceedings to begin without the other spouse’s agreement. The only other way to obtain a divorce without the other spouse’s consent is by living apart for five years.
Under The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, a spouse will simply have to claim that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. The bill will also mean that spouses will not be able to contest the decision to divorce. However, divorces will still be contestable on grounds such as coercion and fraud. The “no fault” divorce bill will also introduce a six-month minimum period that must pass between the divorce proceedings starting to the divorce being finalised.
What changes will the “no fault” divorce bill make?
The bill also introduces a new option, allowing couples to jointly apply for a divorce, where the decision to separate is a mutual one. It also replaces some existing terminology, with the terms “decree nisi” and “decree absolute” becoming “conditional order” and “final order”. “Petitioners” will also become “applicants”.
The bill will now progress to the detailed committee stage. The Bill will receive its remaining stages of parliamentary scrutiny starting on Wednesday 17th June 2020. This could mean that “no-fault” divorce could become available in the near future. Just as we have seen with same-sex marriage, in this momentous step Parliament has brought divorce law into the 21st century. This step is considered long overdue by many family solicitors who have been backing the Resolution campaign for this change to the law for a number of years.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will always uphold the institution of marriage. But when divorce cannot be avoided, the law must not create conflict between couples that so often harms the children involved. “Our reforms remove the needless ‘blame game’, while ensuring there is a minimum six-month time frame to allow for reflection and the opportunity to turn back.”
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