In April 2015 the deputy president of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, called for reform of the current divorce law. Unless the parties to a marriage have been separated for more than two years, the law requires that one party makes allegations that the other has either behaved unreasonably or committed adultery.
On 13 October 2015 South Norfolk Conservative MP Richard Bacon introduced a Private Member’s Bill to Parliament proposing “no fault” divorce. The Bill proposes that a divorce can be obtained if each party makes a separate declaration that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The same would apply to the dissolution of a civil partnership. Mr Bacon worked with the family lawyers’ organisation Resolution in preparing the Bill.
In his speech introducing the Bill Mr Bacon said:
“A couple wishing to take advantage of my proposal would take somewhat but not inordinately longer to get divorced, probably one year, but without any requirement to throw mud at each other as is currently the case.”
The Bill met with opposition from Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough. He stated that no fault divorce has had a “large, widespread and demonstrable effect on the societies in which it has been introduced” and that a change in law would make divorce “easier” and increase the number of divorces.
The matter is due to be debated in Parliament on 4th December 2015 and there is no doubt there will be strong voices on both sides.
For many of us working in family law, reform of the law is long overdue. We will be supporting the efforts of Mr Bacon and Resolution by writing to our own MPs encouraging them to participate in the debate. If nothing else, the debate should bring this polemic issue to the attention of the public.