No Fault Divorce Bill To Become Law

June 2020 – No fault rules will not come into force until autumn 2021, despite the divorce bill having effectively finished its parliamentary journey.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill concluded its passage through the House of Commons on 17th June 2020 and is now on track to receiving Royal Assent.

The only hurdle it still faces is additional amendments to be considered by the House of Lords.

But couples seeking a no fault divorce under the new legislation will have to wait another year after lord chancellor Robert Buckland told MPs that the bill’s reforms will not come into force on Royal Assent because “time needs to be allowed for careful implementation”.

Normally after a bill receives Royal Assent the legislation will either commence immediately or after a certain time if there has been a commencement order set by a government minister.

Mr Buckland said: “At this early stage, we are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in Autumn 2021. As I have said, the bill will deliver much-needed reform in respect of which there is clear, strong and broad consensus.”

The no-fault law will require couples to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown and replace the need for evidence of conduct, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or proof of separation. 

It is hoped the new rules will mean couples no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of a marriage and remove unnecessary conflict during the divorce process.

Speaking at the final committee hearing yesterday, MP for North West Durham Richard Holden, said the bill was necessary to remove blame within divorce settlements.

Mr Holden said: “I speak as a supporter of marriage, but also as a supporter of the bill. I think that, wherever possible, divorce needs to be amicable, and we need to remove blame as a necessity. 

“In earlier stages of the legislation, we heard some honourable members, including from my recent intake, speak personally of the pain they are going through at the moment with the blame levels in divorce. 

“I think the bill does help remove some of that pain by removing some of the blame, and we are doing an important thing today in removing that.”

But others raised concerns the reform would create more divorces as people find it easier to separate.

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, said: “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. The removal of fault sends out the signal that marriage can be unilaterally exited with no available recourse for the party who has been left.”

She added: “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.”

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