Next Week The Commons will debate the second reading of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.
For Those of us who believe in the fundamental importance of marriage as the basis for family life -and all the implications for a strong and stable society that flow from it, making divorce easier will always be a difficult subject and I’ve been receiving large numbers of representations.
The principle of the bill is to remove ‘fault’ from divorce.
Under the current law, anyone seeking to divorce must initiate proceedings against a spouse, citing one or more of five ‘facts’ :adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion, separation of two years where both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken down; or 5 years separation if one of the parties disagree.
If one of these facts is proved, then a court must grant a divorce to the petitioner.
The new bill dispenses with these 5 facts and by doing so removes the concept of fault or blame.
Under these proposals all that either spouse need do is present a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and the court will accept it as conclusive.
Notwithstanding, that I do believe that there is indeed blame and fault in divorce, I can accept the principle of the bill because, in my experience, the process of attributing blame by raking over the adultery or detailing the unreasonable behaviour, is itself bound to generate greater bitterness and hatred. I have witnessed parents using their children as weapons in a continuing war with their former spouse, as a consequence of the lasting anger and bitterness of such a divorce process.
Removing the need to attribute fault will not remove the pain and bitterness of divorce, but my belief is that it will be less likely to stir it up.
Where I do depart from supporting the measures in this bill however, is that it introduces an overall timeframe of 6 months from the application for a divorce, to the granting of it. This is ridiculously short. You might even describe it as ‘drive-thru’ divorce.
Currently many more couples explore the possibility of divorce than actually proceed to obtain one. In the intervening period there is an enormous opportunity for guidance, counselling and reconciliation. The proposal to reduce the divorce process to a mere six months removes so many opportunities for reconciliation and suggests that divorce is an easier option and a quick way out.
Actually, divorce is the swiftest route to poverty. Of all the difficulties that constituents bring to me in the hope that I can be of assistance -irrespective of how the problem presents: whether it be debt; housing, insufficient income, schooling, child access, or whatever. When I scratch the surface, I find that divorce and family breakdown are the real root cause.
This bill will generate more of it.