New laws currently passing through Parliament to introduce no fault divorce in the UK have been automatically dropped as a result of the Prime Minister proroguing Parliament. While the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill could be brought back to Parliament, there are fears that it could be scrapped altogether.
What Does It Mean to Prorogue Parliament?
To prorogue parliament is to bring a parliamentary 'session' to a close. Sessions in Parliament generally last around a year but the current session began in 2017 and was scheduled for 2 years to allow MPs enough time to prepare Britain for Brexit. The 2 year period is almost at an end, but Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament early has been a very controversial one, as it has suspended Parliament in the run up to Brexit, with some MPs feeling that they have been denied an opportunity to scrutinise the Prime Minister's Brexit policy.
When Parliament is prorogued, all unfinished parliamentary business is automatically brought to an end. This means that the 12 bills that were passing through Parliament at the time, including the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, have been automatically dropped.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill Explained
Under current law in England and Wales, in order for a couple to get divorced within 2 years of separating, one person needs to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. The reason for the divorce needs to fall into the category of either adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, and the person filing for divorce cannot cite their own behaviour.
What this means is that one person is required to dredge up evidence of the other's behaviour and present this to the Court. This system has been described as archaic, with campaigners arguing that it can cause an otherwise amicable split to turn sour.
As a result of this, in recent years the UK has seen growing calls for a 'no fault' divorce option to be introduced into divorce law. In response, last year the Government confirmed that divorce law would be overhauled to remove the need to assign blame. This is what the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill set out to achieve.
What's the Future of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will only reappear in Parliament if it's included in the Queen's Speech at the beginning of the next parliamentary session, which will begin in October. This is the same for the other 11 bills that have also been dropped as a result of the proroguing. The Prime Minister will draw up the Queen's Speech, but it's unclear at this stage whether this new legislation will be a priority.
Former Justice Secretary, David Gauke, drew up the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. He voiced his disappointment at the bill being dropped, saying, "Divorce reform is long overdue and the bill had overwhelming support amongst the public and in Parliament. I hope Parliament can return to this ASAP."
Campaigners are also calling for the legislation to be prioritised as soon as the next session in Parliament begins, but the future of no fault divorce will remain unclear until the Queen's Speech takes place.