The COVID-19 crisis is the worst possible time to make divorce easier, a columnist has said, as the Government attempts to introduce divorce on demand.
In the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, Ministers are proposing to allow people to divorce in just six months, without having to give a reason and without having to let their spouse know until the process is almost finalised.
Writing in The Telegraph, Jill Kirby questions why the Government is trying to push through the liberal changes at a time when it should be prioritising economic recovery and healthcare reform.
While proponents claim that, by removing the need to assign fault, couples will be able to divorce amicably, which will in turn benefit the children, Kirby said the law “does not change the fact that relationship breakdown is rarely amicable”.
She said: “Removing allegations of unfaithfulness or unreasonable behaviour from the mix will make the process more emollient for some. But for those who feel they are the wronged party it is likely to create strong feelings of injustice.
“Most importantly, in either situation, children will still be the victims. Their parents’ freedom to start afresh, often with new partners, will have profound consequences for them.
“Research data is clear: children whose parents split up experience lasting psychological, educational and financial disadvantage compared with children of intact families. Simplifying the divorce process does not alter that fact.”
Kirby continued: “The danger inherent in the new law is that marriage is no longer seen as a lifelong commitment but a temporary arrangement.
“For this reason it seems perverse to be hurrying the bill through at a time when marriages have been put under unprecedented and unusual stress.”
The columnist concluded: “In the interests of a generation of children, the Government should be giving married couples a helping hand, not a quick exit.”
Kirby’s comments echo those of MPs who voted against the Government’s controversial Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill – better known as the ‘no-fault divorce’ Bill.
In the interests of a generation of children, the Government should be giving married couples a helping hand, not a quick exit.
Women at risk
Financial services company Quilter has also questioned the wisdom of the Government’s Bill, with Head of Retirement Policy Jon Greer branding the timing “questionable”, with many families “under increased strain financially and emotionally”.
He pointed out that making divorce quicker and easier will particularly leave more women at risk of financial vulnerability in retirement, as by speeding up the process, divorcing parties are less likely to take specialist financial advice.
He said: “We know people dealing with the emotional stress of divorce fail to make important decisions about major financial assets, such as their pensions. The introduction of no-fault divorce laws during the current pandemic could exacerbate this”.
He explained that women are more likely to miss out than men, as on average, married men are likely to have pensions five times larger than that of married women.