First Reading is a new regular feature in which I ask campaigners, writers and thinkers what law they’d change, if they could table their own “private person’s bill” in Parliament. My first guest is the campaigner and policy researcher Ellie Cumbo – and here’s her Ground of Divorce and Dissolution Bill, to radically reform the law on divorce. You’ll be able to hear Ellie explain her policy in discussion with me here on Head of Legal tomorrow.

Have a look at Ellie’s bill, and you’ll see she wants to bring in “no fault” divorce in England and Wales (and an equivalent system of “no fault” dissolution of civil partnerships). Under the bill, you could, as now, petition for divorce after a year of marriage. But you wouldn’t have to cite any “facts” – such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour – to justify your claim that your marriage had broken down. The court would simply have to grant you a divorce “on demand”, except in a rare case to avoid grave hardship to your spouse.

You’ll see that the bill amends the two Acts of Parliament that govern this area: the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. Clause 1 of the bill amends the 1973 Act, replacing the current ground of divorce with the new “no-fault” ground, amending the law on hardship, and bringing the law on judicial separation in line with Ellie’s new approach to divorce. Clause 2 amends the 2004 Act to make parallel changes to civil partnership law.

It was great fun to draft this bill for Ellie, and it gave me a bit of practice as a legislative drafter. I know some readers are legally nerdish enough to spot my boo-boos – and you’re more than welcome to let me know about them! I’m grateful to John Bolch, an actual family law expert who helped me work out what I needed to do. This is I think a way of opening up an important discussion about how to modernise the law on divorce.

Do come back tomorrow, when Ellie will explain why she wants to change divorce law in this way, how she thinks it’d work, and why she thinks divorce reform is difficult.

2015-06-18T18:51:18+00:00Tags: , , , , |