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MPs back no-fault divorce bill despite Tory rebellion over ‘undermining marriage’

MPs back no-fault divorce bill despite Tory rebellion over ‘undermining marriage’

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the plans would ‘reduce conflict when it arises’.

2 min read

A bill paving the way for “no-fault” divorces in England and Wales has been backed by MPs despite concerns from some Conservatives.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed its first Commons hurdle by 231 votes to 16 against - with 12 Tory MPs voting against.

Under current divorce law, a spouse must allege adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour to begin proceedings immediately. That decision can also be contested.

But the new legislation would allow one partner to state that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, with fewer grounds to contest a divorce.

Couples will also be allowed to jointly apply for a divorce where the decision to separate is a mutual one.

But a group of Tory MPs this weekend warned that the plans risked “undermining the commitment of marriage” during the coronavirus lockdown, instead urging the Government to help couples “discuss possible reconciliation”.

“This law sends a destabilising and deeply insensitive signal which will be amplified by these intensely troubled times and it should be dropped now,” they said in a letter to The Telegraph.

Among the dozen Conservative MPs who voted against the bill on Monday night were David Amess, Fiona Bruce, Philip Davies, John Hayes, Edward Leigh and Desmond Swayne.

But, speaking in the Commons, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: "No-one sets out thinking that their marriage is going to end, no-one wants their marriage to break down, none of us are therefore indifferent when a couple's lifelong commitment has sadly deteriorated.

"It is a very sad circumstance but the law, I believe, should reduce conflict when it arises.

"Where divorce is inevitable, this bill seeks to make the legal process less painful."

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said Labour backed the “common-sense” bill, which he argued would “promote conciliations and compromise" and stop “eye-watering” sums being spent on divorce proceedings.

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