Resolution has published an open letter ahead of today’s (Monday 8 June) second reading of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill in the House of Commons, in order to address some of the misconceptions surrounding no-fault divorce legislation that appeared in The Telegraph and elsewhere over the weekend.
We welcome the fact the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill is having its second reading in the Commons today, particularly as it has enjoyed cross-party support so far.
However, it is disappointing to see many of the myths surrounding divorce reform being perpetuated by a minority of MPs who oppose reform in this area. Briefings circulated by Resolution, the family justice body representing over 6,500 practitioners working in this area, and the Nuffield Foundation, based on the Finding Fault academic research, address these misconceptions.
The Bill has widespread public support, with a 2019 YouGov poll showing 73% supported divorce law reform. It also has support throughout the family judiciary, including from two former Presidents of the Family Division. Baroness Hale, the former President of the Supreme Court, has said, “There is no evidence at all that having to give a reason for [marriage] breakdown makes people think twice.”
The Finding Fault study found the current system does nothing to safeguard marriage. The evidence points the other way: analysis of case files shows fault was associated with shorter marriages and shorter gaps between the break-up of the relationship and filing for divorce.
No-fault divorce has not led to a sustained increase in divorce rates in other countries. Any increase after similar new legislation was introduced has been short-term, reflecting couples waiting for the new legislation to come in. This is what happened in Scotland when the law was reformed there in 2006.
Nor will it make divorce quicker. In fact, the bill contains new minimum timeframes, meaning couples will need to wait at least 6 months before their divorce is confirmed, whereas the quickest divorces at present can take only 4-5 months (and can be even quicker using the new online system).
Overall, this Bill is aimed at minimising conflict between separating couples, and making divorce not easier, but kinder. Practitioners, the public and (most) politicians agree. We call on MPs from all sides to come together to support this Bill today and move us a step closer to creating a modern divorce law that befits a modern society.
Margaret Heathcote, National Chair, Resolution
Jo Edwards, Chair, Resolution’s Family Law Reform Group
Nigel Shepherd, immediate past chair, Resolution
Professor Liz Trinder, Exeter University and author, Finding Fault study
Aidan Jones, Chief Executive, Relate
Professor Jan Walker, Newcastle University & President, Relate
Andrew Balfour, Chief Executive, Tavistock Relationships