“No-Fault” Divorce Bill Backed by House of Commons

Despite rebellion by 12 Conservative MPs, legislation seeking to loosen prerequisites for divorce proceedings was passed in the UK House of Commons, paving the way for changes to family law.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons by 231 votes to 16 against.

The Bill proposes significant changes to UK divorce law, most notably the removal of any need for a partner to prove that “adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion” has taken place to secure a divorce. Under current UK law, the only other way a person can obtain a divorce without a spouse’s consent is to have lived apart for five years.

The ability of a spouse to contest a divorce – which is invoked in only 2% of cases – would also be scrapped under this new legislation.

This potential shake-up of divorce law follows a high-profile case in 2018, wherein Tini Owens lost a legal battle to divorce her husband of 40 years because they had not lived apart for the required five year period.

In spite of the small rebellion from Tory lawmakers, with one decrying the “effective abolition of the marriage vow”, the Bill has generally been well-received. Sarah Kelly, partner in the family law department of Thomas Snell & Passmore, commented: “It is already best practice for family lawyers to try and keep the divorce process as amicable and non-confrontational as possible. It is hoped that the proposed bill will make it much easier for that to happen.”

The Bill has already been passed by the House of Lords, and it is possible that it will receive Royal assent within the week.

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