Speech: Divorce To Be Fit For The 21st Century

By Office of Wera Hobhouse, Jun 26, 2019 10:06

Wera Hobhouse made an impassioned speech in the chamber, welcoming the new bill which seeks to make our legal practises around divorce fit for the 21st century. 

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"I welcome this legislation which will significantly impact the lives of individuals across the UK. This new bill seeks to make our legal practises around divorce fit for the 21st century and the Liberal Democrats welcome these changes. 

Divorce can be traumatizing and impact whole families, for years after the event. Up until now the legal process through which divorce happens, has further exasperated this trauma – dragging out the process and forcing couples into conflict, to assign legal blame.

Currently it is impossible to seek a no-fault divorce unless a couple has been separated for at least two years. To file a divorce quicker than this, couples must claim “unreasonable behaviour” or “adultery”.

The impacts of such a system are devastating, especially on children.

Divorce, and family breakdown, are considered an adverse childhood experience which leaves lasting impacts on the children who are caught up in these events.

Experiencing adverse childhood experiences hugely influences the likelihood that a child will end up serving time in our criminal justice system, have poor mental and physical health, and build stable, loving relationships of their own.

Our legislation around divorce must take this into account and be trauma informed.

People often to come to the decision to divorce at the most chaotic times of their - and their families - lives and we must have a system which tries to restore order, not fuel further chaos.

The new legislation – which would allow couples to file for no-fault divorce and complete the process in six months – would leave space for families to continue to function in difficult circumstances. It would encourage couples to be mindful about the marriage and the impact of divorce, whilst not pushing them towards further conflict.

Each year over 100,000 couples get divorced in England and Wales. In the years that have passed since the last significant piece of family legislation, over 1.7 million people have assigned blame in the divorce process.

Needless to say, this legislation is long overdue.

There is also more that can be done to bring our laws around marriage into the 21st century.

We must recognize that marriage and civil partnerships are not for everyone, and the young people who do get married, are doing so later and later.

Our legal system needs to catch up with society, in which millions of couples choose to live together without making a formal commitment.

The Law Commission suggests essential but limited legal rights to couples who have lived together for at least three years. This legislation would compliment the new Divorce, dissolution, and separation laws and I would urge the Minister to take another look at this proposal.

Family law defines millions of lives, both young and old. We have an obligation to ensure that the law is up to date and empowers people, no matter the context.

Changing the current legislation to focus on reconciliation as opposed to conflict, is a positive first step in the process." 






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