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Second reading of No Fault Divorce private members' Bill postponed to March

Bill would allow divorce on joint petition where marriage has broken down irretrievably

The No Fault Divorce Bill, Richard Bacon MP's private members' bill, which seeks to introduce an extra ground for legal separation to the  Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, has had its second reading postponed from 22nd January to 11th March 2016.

MPs will debate the proposed reforms to the law, which would mean divorce would become available where both parties issued a joint petition and satisfied the court that that the marriage had broken down irretrievably. A corresponding amendment in respect of dissolution would be made to the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

With almost 100,000 children caught up in divorces each year, family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say no fault divorce could be a better option to minimise the disruption for any children involved as it allows for a more amicable separation.

Peter Morris, a Partner and specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said the law as it current stands fails to recognise that many couples split amicably, and the system often results in one party having to wrongly admit fault in court. He said:

"While the decision to end a marriage should never be taken lightly, the law should reflect the simple fact that sometimes, through no fault of either party, couples can grow apart. Divorce law needs to be brought into the 21st century and reflect the attitudes in modern society.

"At the moment even if a couple is divorcing amicably, unless they have lived apart for two years and both consent, one of them will have to agree to admit wrongdoing in formal court documents  even if they are without blame, and therein lies the need for this legal reform.

"The current system is contradictory because people are required to tell the truth in court but expected to cite reasons which may be exaggerated in order to get a divorce. Anecdotally, we hear of cases where couples have even invented reasons in order to satisfy the legal test for a divorce.

"The Government needs to realise that legislation must reflect modern values as it is counterproductive to have a law where there is no other option than to point the finger of blame and find one party at fault.

"No fault divorce can mean that the separation has less of an impact on any children involved and may help avoid the mudslinging that can sometimes accompany court proceedings."

The Bill, as introduced, is here.

21/1/16 (updated 25.1.16)