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The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed through the House of Commons in June and is now on the way to receiving Royal Assent.
The lord chancellor Robert Buckland, however, has told MPs that the bill’s reforms (including “no-fault divorce”) will, unusually, not come into force on Royal Assent because “time needs to be allowed for careful implementation”.
Mr Buckland added: “At this early stage, we are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021… The bill will deliver much-needed reform in respect of which there is clear, strong and broad consensus.”
The government hopes the new legislation will remove unnecessary conflict during the divorce process and bring an end to the concept of allocating blame to one or other party.
Some MPs have, however, suggested the reforms will lead to a surge in divorces because people will find it easier to separate.
Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, said the bill sent out the wrong message at the wrong time. “No-fault divorce is really state-approved unilateral divorce,” she added. “Ministers like to say that it is all about the divorce process and not about marriage. They are wrong. The removal of fault sends out the signal that marriage can be unilaterally exited with no available recourse for the party who has been left.”