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So close but yet so far - the end of no fault divorce reform?

View profile for John Boon
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The recent developments in the Houses of Parliament have ended the immediate prospects of no fault divorce reform.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had been making swift progress towards becoming law.  It was proving to be a popular legislative change that promised to reduce blame and acrimony at the end of a marriage. 

We explained in this earlier article that the Bill proposed:

“to allow married couples to divorce without blaming the other party  for the breakdown of the marriage/civil partnership… there will also be an option for couples to apply for a divorce on a joint basis”.   

Parliament was “prorogued” in the early hours of Tuesday, 10 September, bringing the current parliament to a close.  There is a convention that one parliament cannot bind the next and, as a result, any unfinished business, such as Bills that have not yet been completed, are said to fall.  Their progress and all work on them ceases.

It would have been possible to request that the Bill could be "carried over" into the next parliament when that commences.  This step would have enabled the considerable progress already made to continue so that the Bill could have reached its conclusion and become law.

That has not happened however.  Consequently, if there is to be divorce law reform, then the process will have to start from scratch once again.

It is unclear if the proposed legislation will be taken up again in the new parliament.  It is perhaps notable that the Bill was originally proposed by David Gauke who currently finds himself branded by the Government as a "rebel" and subsequently had the whip withdrawn.

Large parts of the public and family law profession alike will be greatly saddened to learn of the demise of this long-awaited reform.  Neil Denny, family lawyer with Roythornes Solicitors in Nottingham points out that “23 years passed between the previous 1996 attempt at divorce reform and the recently lapsed Bill.  It is to be hoped that the wait for the next one is nowhere near as long”.