MPs debate “no fault divorce” legislation – is a kinder type of separation just around the corner?

The breakdown of a marriage is a hugely stressful time, but MPs are currently debating new legislation that could minimise any added difficulties that separating couples might face in the courtroom. The Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill provides for a “no-fault” divorce, which could encourage cooperation between soon-to-be-former spouses rather than acrimony. 

Given the incredible strain that divorce can place on a family, we wholeheartedly support this legislation as offering a more humane way to legally separate.

Under current legislation (the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973), a couple seeking a divorce cannot simply say that the Marriage has broken down and both parties want out. Rather, they have to establish one of five “facts” in support. This encourages allegations of “adultery” or “behaviour” – in other words, the apportion of blame – simply so that couples can divorce in a timely manner. The alternative is a two-year separation, after which, mutual consent divorce becomes an option. 

According to statistics provided by Resolution, a national organisation of Family lawyers, 90% of its members said current legislation makes it harder for them to reduce “conflict and confrontation” between divorcing couples. 80% think that the introduction of a no-fault divorce could encourage out-of-court agreements and cooperation. 67% claimed current legislation made it harder for divorcing parents to come to an agreement over arrangements for children. 

It is not just the professionals that support this new bill – a YouGov poll in April showed that 73% of the public supported divorce law reform, and 71% agreed that no-fault divorce is “urgently” needed in order to protect the “long term interests of children.”

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was given its second reading on June 25. It has now moved into Committee stage, meaning MPs are in the process of debating it. Speaking in June, Resolution’s chairperson, Margaret Heathcote, said: “These proposals have the support of the public, politicians, and professionals. We therefore call on MPs and members of the House of Lords to pass this Bill without delay, and end the blame game for divorcing couples as soon as possible.”

We at David Lee Solicitors are firmly behind any legislation that makes this difficult time for families a little less painful. If you are currently experiencing a marital separation and want to discuss your options with a compassionate and experienced solicitor, please feel free to contact us through the details on this website – we are always happy to help.

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