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Government rushes ahead with no-reason divorce Bill

Marriage and Family
14 June 2019
Certificate of divorce hands 1 0

Yesterday the Government rushed ahead with its proposed reforms to divorce law tabling the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. This bill would remove the fault part of divorce meaning we will essentially have no-reason divorce where one spouse can unilaterally end the marriage without having to provide any real reason.

If one spouse wants out, they will be able to do so in six months and their spouse, who made what they regarded as a serious till death us do part commitment, will have no rights to contest this.

The consultation on the proposals, which took place last year, found that a staggering 80% of those who responded did not agree with the proposal to replace the five facts with a notification process, while a mere 17% were in favour. The Government has ignored this overwhelming opposition, intent on pushing ahead with their plans, making a complete mockery of the consultation process.

Serious concerns with the Bill

From what we have seen of the Bill so far CARE has serious concerns about the stated aims of the Government and the way no-reason divorce will play out in reality.

One of the main aims of these reforms is ‘to ensure that the decision to divorce is a considered one.’ This is a laudable aim and is reflected in a 20 week ‘reflection period’ before a divorce decree is issue. When one looks closer, however, this ‘reflection period’ does not look so positive.

The 20 week ‘reflection period’ starts running from the start of divorce proceedings. A divorce may be totally unexpected to some spouses however and it may be some weeks before the court is able to notify them. As one lawyer David Hodson has noted, ‘they [the Government] are seriously underestimating the difficulties and as a consequence seriously reducing the time period from notice. This will have detrimental impact on many respondent spouses, especially those surprised by receipt of the notice and keen to have a chance to be heard, even if there is no chance ultimately to object to the divorce.’

Furthermore, there is no moratorium on other court proceedings (for instance in relation to financial aspects). It is impossible to consider reconciliation if you have to start dealing with splitting assets and deciding future financial provision. A proper cooling off period would allow couples to reflect and consider mediation or counselling.

These are just the headline concerns; we will highlight more as the Bill makes progress through Parliament.

Commenting, CARE Family Policy Officer Jonathan Williams said:

“As seems to be becoming the norm, the Government is rushing ahead with ill-thought through proposals that have glaring weaknesses and inadequacies.

“CARE is concerned that these proposals will make divorce easier and will undermine marriage. The Government seems to be putting forward a view of marriage that prioritises individual autonomy, rather than encouraging commitment and protecting the vulnerable.

“The Government should be helping couples to stay together, rather than making it easier for them to split up.”

Read more

In this article, Jonathan explains in more detail some of the concerns we have about the Government's proposals

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