Parliament approves no-fault divorce for 2021

19 June 2020

MPs have this week approved the government’s no-fault divorce bill for England and Wales, with divorce set to become easier from autumn 2021.

When made law, it will allow married couples to divorce in just six months, without having to give any reason. It could also allow one spouse to impose divorce on the other without their consent, making marriage easier to dissolve than a phone or tenancy contract.

Amendments rejected

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill concluded its passage through the House of Commons with MPs overwhelmingly rejecting even modest amendments. Pro-marriage MPs put forward several amendments to try to soften the bill, including extending the period to one year rather than six months, and ensuring that the spouse being divorced is informed promptly.

Similarly, an amendment brought forward by MP Fiona Bruce to increase support for marriage and civil partnerships was rejected by 396 votes to 31.

‘A bad bill’

Speeches were made by a number of pro-marriage MPs, including Fiona Bruce, who stated:

“This Bill is a bad Bill. It sends out the wrong message at the wrong time. No-fault divorce is really state-approved unilateral divorce. Ministers like to say that it is all about the divorce process and not about marriage. They are wrong.
“Making divorce easier and quicker will inevitably change the nature of the commitment that is made when marrying, because those doing so will recognise that it is something that can be existed easily and quickly, without having to prove that the relationship has broken down.
“No longer ’till death us do part’, but ‘until I give you six months’ notice to quit, with no reason given’.”

‘A huge mistake’

MP Sir Edward Leigh said:

“I believe the Government are making a huge mistake. That is not just my opinion; the research is clear that liberalisation and expansion of no-fault divorce, wherever it has been introduced, has led to the most vulnerable in society being worse off.”

In fact, in the government’s own consultation on no-fault divorce, 80% of those who responded did not agree with the proposal to replace the grounds for divorce with a six-month notification process. Furthermore, 83% wanted the government to retain the individual’s right to contest a divorce.

It is also well-documented that divorce and family breakdown is one of the quickest routes into poverty and is far more likely to lead to future emotional and societal problems for any children involved.

‘Encouraging marriage’

Scott Benton MP said: “As a Government, we should be encouraging marriage and supporting the principle of the traditional family.”

Sir David Amess also commented on the Bill, saying that “six months is simply too short a time to consider such life-changing decisions and make arrangements for children, housing, finances and many more things.

“It is extraordinary that at a time of national crisis, the Government are going ahead with a Bill that will water down marriage to a six-month commitment.”

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