Prorogation halts divorce law reforms

As a result of Parliament being closed for five weeks, all legislation advancing through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords has been halted. Whether they return in the next Parliament will depend on whether they are included in the Queen’s Speech when Parliament reopens on 14th October.

Following years of campaigning for reform in the current ‘blame game’ divorce laws which were introduced in their current form in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1963, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had proposed introducing ‘no fault’ divorce and the option of filing a joint divorce petition. It had undergone extensive drafting work by MPs from all parties and wide support. However, because the bill had not been made subject to a cross-over motion, it will have to be started again from scratch in the next Parliament, if the Government chooses to bring it back. With a hard Brexit looming ever closer, it is possible that the Government may have higher priorities to deal with.

The Government is yet to confirm what bills that were before Parliament prior to prorogation will be included in the Queen’s speech and brought back in the new Parliament. A previous attempt to reform the divorce process was included in the Family Law Act 1996, but never given the Royal Assent and was shelved. It seems, for the time being, that couples wanting a blame free divorce will still have to separate and wait for two years. Otherwise, they must rely on the other’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour and a willingness for one of them to “take the blame” for the marriage breakdown if they want to move on sooner.

It is also important to remember that the financial issues which arise on divorce and separation are not automatically resolved when the marriage itself is dissolved. These issues will still need to be settled and an order made dealing with any outstanding claims once and for all, if the parties want to achieve a clean break. It is, therefore, important that divorcing or separating couples seek independent legal advice at an early stage and try and resolve the issues by agreement to avoid unnecessary conflict and cost.

Our family specialist, Andrew Hill, has over 25 experience dealing with a wide range of family issues, is a member of Resolution and is a trained Collaborative Lawyer. He will discuss all the options with you and help you to find a practical way of dealing with the issues you face.

Please give us a call on 01539 723757 for a no-obligation initial meeting.

Justice bills fall overnight as parliament shuts down

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