On Wednesday, the Report Stage of the Government’s new Divorce Bill took place, which is usually where amendments are tabled and voted on. CARE supported a number of Peers in attempts to amend the Bill and we were encouraged to see many Peers speak out and challenge the Government on the detail of the Bill.
Below are two good examples of the sort of criticism aimed at the Government’s divorce bill.
Lord Farmer made the point that the law ‘cheapens the commitment of marriage’. He pointed to existing research which suggests easier divorce means more divorce. In turn, this leads to far great instability for children and for society in general:
‘How are the state’s interests served by this bad law, which cheapens the commitment of marriage? I have already cited research that shows that unilateral divorce leads to fewer marriages, fewer remarriages and more cohabitation, precisely because it makes marriage more like cohabitation. Does the state really want the greater instability that more cohabitation will bring, and higher numbers of children growing up without both parents? How is conflict significantly reduced when most of it is either prior to the divorce procedure or separate from it, at the stages when issues of money and children are being resolved?’
Lord Morrow argued that the Bill is contrary to the Government’s public commitment to strengthen family life and that the Bill also fails the Government’s own Family Test Assessment:
‘In this context, the argument that the Bill is about just the divorce process and that marriage support should be addressed elsewhere is very difficult to sustain. First, it is not consistent with many of the Government’s statements about their focus on reconciliation within the divorce process. Secondly, it is not consistent with what the academic research says about the importance of promoting reconciliation within the divorce process. Thirdly, it fails to engage with the logic of their own Family Test Assessment, which says that ending reconciliation in a fault-based system is hard and that no-fault provides new opportunities in this regard.’
We are disappointed that, overall, there was no change from the Government in their approach, particularly on the issues of reconciliation in the divorce process – something several Peers advocated for strongly.
The Government unfortunately appear to view divorce as merely a mechanical process of ending marriage, and arguments calling on them to focus on strengthening marriage, to consider the needs of children, and to ensure both sides in the divorce process are treated equally, fell on deaf ears.
The Bill will soon passed to the Commons, where there will be further opportunities to amend the Bill. Please do be praying that the Bill would be improved in its current form, and that the Government will concede this Bill is deeply flawed and will undermine marriage in the long term.