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No-Fault Divorce Bill to become law as MPs vote overwhelmingly against marriage support

Marriage and Family
18 June 2020
Certificate of divorce hands 0 0

The Government's controversial no-fault divorce reforms for England and Wales will soon become law after the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was rushed through all remaining stages in the House of Commons yesterday. The Bill will remove the five facts currently required to evidence divorce and replace them with a notification period of six months.

The debate, which took place yesterday afternoon, saw significant opposition raised to the proposals by Conservative backbenchers who proposed a number of amendments aimed at dulling the worst elements of the Bill and ensuring that there is continued support for marriage and relationships support services.

Under­min­ing Commitment

A number of MPs spoke out against the Bill and they ways they saw that it will undermine the marriage commitment.

Fiona Bruce MP argued that:

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 exited easily and quickly, without having to prove that the relationship has broken down. Commitment within marriage will become unreliable. People will marry less due to the low expectation of permanence in marriage, and they will cohabit more as the distinction between the two is eroded and what marriage really means becomes confused. No longer “till death us do part”, but “until I give you six months’ notice to quit, with no reason given”.
Fiona Bruce MP

Speaking from her own experience as a child of divorce, Andrea Leadsom remarked:

"I also know lots of people who have divorced and got back together again—people whose relationships have been severely challenged and they have managed to find a way through it. I cannot see in this Bill any attempt to help them to stay together, to help them to get through a rough period, or to encourage them to stay together to focus on the children. It does not seem to me to do any of those things, which we all absolutely know are in the interests of a stronger and a happier society."
Andrea Leadsom MP

MPs Vote against mar­riage support

Marriage counselling
MPs rejected an amendment to increase support for marriage counselling

Fiona Bruce and other MPs tabled a modest amendment that would have increased support for marriage counselling and introduced new support for couples who have begun the divorce process.

Andrew Selous, spoke in favour of the amendment, pointing out that:

"the fact is that when these relationships go wrong, the Government pick up the tab big time. There is no debate about the benefits, the extra housing costs, the mental health support and other health support that will be paid out. We pay that out in our billions without question, so, as my hon. Friend said—and, indeed, as the Lord Chancellor said on Second Reading— let us put a bit more emphasis on the other end of the telescope to try to strengthen these relationships in the first place."
Andrew Selous MP

Sadly when Mrs Bruce pushed the amendment to a division it was voted down 400 to 31.

Speaking later during the proceedings, Sir Edward Leigh condemned this decision:

"The amendments we proposed were moderate… In the last vote, we asked for more money to be given for reconciliation. The Government brought the full might of their machine to vote down our amendment—a very moderate amendment. Divorce costs us £50 billion a year, but we are spending only £10 million."
Sir Edward Leigh MP

The Secretary of State indicated that the reformed law will be implemented from Autumn 2021.

CARE’s response

Relationship support
Marriage is God's design for society and should be supported

At a time when it is illegal to get married in England and Wales it a strange decision from the Conservative Government to prioritise rushing through legislation that would make divorce easier.

We are profoundly disappointed that this Bill will soon become law, and our sadness is further increased by the unwilling of the Government to accept even the most modest of amendments to encourage reconciliation and fund marriage support services.

The Secretary of State claimed that the Government recognised the value of relationship support and mediation services and yet the Government have not taken this valuable opportunity to increase funding for marriage support and extend these services to those in the divorce process.

The House's overwhelming rejection of marriage support displays a shocking illiteracy, all too common in Parliament, on why marriage is important for society and how it benefits parents, children and communities. Marriage is one of the most important public commitments one can make, and sadly yesterday Parliament agreed to a law that will undermine that commitment."
Jonathan Williams Family Policy Officer at CARE

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