Last night the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. MPs were overwhelmingly in support of the Bill with 231 voting for it and only 16 against it. A number of MPs spoke during the debate about their own very personal experiences of divorce.

Family lawyers, led by Resolution (an association of family law professionals committed to resolving family issues in a constructive way), have long campaigned for these changes to divorce law as we firmly believe that this is best for families.

What is the law now?

Current divorce laws were made nearly 50 years ago. If a couple want to divorce within two years of separating, one must blame the other, citing adultery or the other spouse’s behaviour. Otherwise couples must remain married for at least two years following their separation and, if one party does not consent to the divorce, they may have to remain married for five years.

What will the new law be?

The new law will allow couples to divorce by one or both of them providing a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. They do not have to apportion fault and will be able to apply jointly. The statement of irretrievable breakdown will be followed by a minimum period of six months before the divorce can be finalised.

The Bill is supported by the overwhelming majority of those involved in family justice and supporting families.

Benefits for families 

The new law will remove the need to apportion blame at the outset of the divorce process, reducing unnecessary pain and conflict at an already very difficult time. It will allow families to focus on resolving their finances and the arrangements for any children in an amicable way.

What happens next?

The Bill began in the House of Lords and has already been approved there. It now passes to committee stage and report stage following which there will be a third reading in the House of Commons. Once approved by both Houses, there will be consideration of amendments then it is hoped that the Bill will be given Royal Assent and will become law, effective immediately or on a specified date.

We see the difficulties caused by the current divorce law on a daily basis and hope that these changes will come into force very soon for our clients.