Monday, 1 June 2020

Campaign response – Marriage and Divorce Bill

Thank you to constituents for writing to me regarding the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which aims to introduce the so called “no fault divorce” procedure, making divorce a quicker and easier process in England and Wales.

As a Conservative Member of Parliament, I agree with the Government on many of the key issues facing our nation. However, on this particular bill, I and many of my colleagues are of the view that the bill will further weaken our law, which already sees over 100,000 divorces a year.

The proposed no-fault divorce system will allow someone to walk away from a marriage without having to give a reason and without their spouse being able to contest their decision. There will be a legal minimum of just six months between the application for divorce and it being finalised.

The Government claims a requirement to cite fault leads to acrimony between divorcing parties. But in 2017 more than 40 per cent of divorces were on the basis of separation, not fault.

The reality is that it is already relatively easy to get a divorce these days. Online divorce pilot schemes commissioned by the Government have already drastically sped up the divorce process. One online provider claim they are able to get divorces through in an average of twelve weeks. Being able to get a divorce in twelve weeks makes a mockery of marriage and its promises of commitment and permanence.

We know that liberalising divorce law in England and Wales leads to an increase in divorce. When the Divorce Law Reform Act 1969 came into force in 1971, the number of divorces doubled in just two years, from 58,239 in 1970 to 119,025 in 1972.

In 1973 a ‘special procedure’ was introduced to allow divorces through the post when there had been two years’ separation and there were no children. This was further extended to all uncontested divorces in 1977. By 1980 there were nearly 150,000 divorces – a 150 per cent increase in a decade.

The new proposals will encourage divorce by making the process even quicker and easier. Allowing a spouse to leave a marriage for no reason, without any chance for the other person to object, will create enormous instability and insecurity. Spouses who might otherwise make a go of it could see divorce as the path of least resistance.
I would like to thank constituents again for taking the time to write to me about this important bill.