The second reading of the "no fault" divorce bill took place night and was voted in by an overwhelming majority of 231 votes to 16. Among the dissenters were a small number of DUP and Conservative MPs but the backlash predicted by the media from the right was limited. The current law does not give parties the autonomy to separate within a reasonable timeframe without blaming one another or waiting two years. There had therefore been concerns that the UK could see a spike in divorce due to the lockdown if it was made 'easier'. In fact, if there were to be a rise in divorce if the new law comes in, it is likely to be from those who had been waiting two years to divorce to avoid an unreasonable behaviour Petition. In other words, this is not as a result of increased cases. This has been the reason for any short-lived rise in divorce statistics in other countries when no-fault divorce has been adopted.

The bill will now progress to the detailed committee stage. This is good news for separated families and could mean "no-fault" divorce could become legal by Spring 2021. Just as we have seen with same-sex marriage, this momentous step in Parliament has brought divorce law into the 21st century. This victory is being lauded as a triumph for common sense by divorce lawyers across the nation who have been backing the Resolution campaign for this change to the law for a number of years.

Fiona Lyon, Partner at Anthony Gold says:

"the current divorce law has been in place since 1660 and is not fit for purpose. This is about a kinder not a quicker or easier divorce. No divorce is easy. The language used to describe the threshold of an unreasonable behaviour Petition, ie. your spouse has behaved so unreasonably you find them intolerable to live with, is unnecessarily shaming and aggressive. This pits the parties against one another from the beginning and can further damage relations when written down in black and white. No-fault divorce provides the parties with a route out that can preserve the post-divorce relationship, which is crucial if children are involved. Now in society more than ever, we need a more tolerant attitude, and removing this negative process from divorce will hopefully make it less scarring and help families recover from it more quickly".

Originally published June 10, 2020.

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