This evening, MPs are set to vote on the controversial “no-fault” divorce Bill in the House of Commons, but “dozens” of Conservatives are expected to revolt against the Government.
As well as removing ‘fault’ grounds, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill seeks to make it possible to divorce in just six months and offers no opportunity for a spouse to contest the decision.
The Christian Institute has warned that if passed, the Bill would have a destructive effect on families and society.
Currently, anyone wanting to divorce their spouse must prove one of five ‘facts’: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; separation for two years (with the consent of the spouse); or separation for five years (without consent).
However, the Government is attempting to make it much quicker and easier to get a divorce by scrapping this. The divorcing spouse will not be required to give any reason, and there would only be a six month minimum period between initiating and finalising the divorce.
The bill imposes no legal requirement on the divorcing party to inform their spouse. It is possible that the spouse may discover that they are being divorced only weeks before the process is finalised.
More on no-fault divorce:
Spike in divorces
The measure was absent from the Conservatives’ general election manifesto last year, and “dozens” of Tory MPs and Peers are now opposing the Government’s plans.
In a letter to 200 Conservative MPs, Sir Edward Leigh, Fiona Bruce and Sir John Hayes expressed their concerns that the reforms will lead to “an immediate ‘spike’ in divorce rates”.
They wrote: “Living in lockdown during the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated difficulties in many relationships.
“Now more than ever we need to provide much more support for couples – and their families – many of whom desperately want to make their marriages work; as drafted this Bill is not the way to achieve this.”
In a separate article for The Telegraph, Conservative Peer Lord Farmer said that allowing one spouse to get a divorce without any input from the other sends “a strong and staggeringly unhelpful signal about the commitment of marriage”.
He also pointed out that the Bill had undergone little scrutiny as it was voted through on a day when many Peers were unable to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He said this was “consistent with the questionable consultation process”, which ignored the large majorities who said the right to contest the divorce should be retained, and that a spouse should not simply be able to divorce by just notifying the courts that the marriage is over.
‘Trauma and sorrow’
Lord Farmer added that the Government recognises the Bill has little public support, suggesting that is why “they are giving MPs almost no notice of the legislation”.
He concluded that ministers should be “much more concerned” about the wives and husbands who are trying to keep their families together in the face of “enormous pressure” during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ciarán Kelly, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute warned of the destructive nature of the Bill.
He said: “By removing the incentive and reducing the time to reconcile, an increase in divorce is inevitable. Tragically, thousands more marriages will end, with all the trauma and sorrow that will bring.”