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Sorry. You have to wait for no-fault divorce in the UK. October 2019

You can’t have missed the news that the UK Parliament has been suspended, or prorogued. Most of the focus has been on the effect of the prorogation on Brexit, such as whether it will mean the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31st. However, with Parliament suspended, thirteen other bills have been halted in their tracks, with no guarantee that they will come back. These bills include:

  • A bill to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty in England and Wales

  • A bill to remove business rates for buildings that host public toilets

  • A proposal to add questions around sexual orientation and gender self-identity to the 2021 census

As family lawyers, there are two bills amongst this thirteen that have a bearing on what we do, with an even more significant effect on our clients. These are:

  • The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

  • The Domestic Abuse Bill

 We believe the stopping of these bills is a real pity. In this article, we’re going to explain why. 

Why have the bills been axed?

The rules of Parliament state that if a bill has not been passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords by the end of a Parliamentary session, it has to be dropped. 

These thirteen bills, including the ones on divorce and domestic abuse, did not make it. 

In most years, when a Parliamentary session is about to come to an end, there is a bit of a scramble to get everything passed in time. However, this year, because of the prorogation, early and unplanned, there was not enough Parliamentary time to deliver these new laws. 

Domestic Abuse Bill 

While this bill was only at the start of its passage through Parliament, so not much work has been lost, it’s a shame to see the end of this bill. 

The aim of this bill was to create a standard definition of domestic abuse, so victims and the public could understand it better. It was thought that with a clear definition, more people would come forward to report domestic violence to the police. 

Domestic abuse charities such as Woman’s Aid and MPs such as Jess Phillips have come forward to condemn the shelving of this bill, demanding a new commitment from the Government. 

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 

Previously, it was thought that this bill was very near to a final stamp of approval. In fact, we wrote an article about it, which you can read HERE

The centrepiece of this bill was to introduce ‘no-fault’ divorce to the UK, to match other countries such as the USA. 

Under current UK divorce laws, couples must separate for between two and five years before they can start the divorce process. That is, unless one party places blame or fault on the other. The other party must then accept this blame.  

Staying separated for this period can cause acrimony between ex-partners, leading to unnecessary stress. It can also cause significant disruption to families.  

After the no-fault divorce law, spouses could start divorce proceedings at any time, without any need to play the ‘blame game’. 

It is a real pity for people currently facing this situation that this bill has been stopped in its tracks. 

What can be done? 

These bills would have helped protect victims of domestic abuse, as well as made life easier and less stressful for couples going through divorce.  

It’s possible that the bills could be rekindled. When Parliament restarts, the Government can reintroduce bills if they choose to do so. However, all previous progress would be lost and they would have to start again from scratch.  

We hope the Government, despite the difficulties it is having with Brexit, can find the will to restart these beneficial bills. 

If you’re thinking of divorce, you need an experienced family lawyer on your side. At Couchman Hanson, our solicitors genuinely care about getting the best deal for you. We’re highly professional, with ‘city’ level talent and experience, but also friendly and welcoming. Everything we do fits our values of integrity, honesty and authenticity.  

If you would like to find out more, call us on 01428 722189.

Daniel Couchman