In the first major overhaul of U.K. divorce law for 50 years, new legislation will enable couples to split up simply by filing a statement to say the marriage had broken down irretrievably. Couples will be able to divorce in as little as six months.
An application can be made by just one of the spouses, and the other spouse will not have a right to legally contest the divorce, even if they disagree with it.
The plans include a “cooling off” period of six months to allow spouses to reconsider any decision to break up.
Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, speaking on behalf of the English and Welsh bishops, said the proposals were flawed.
“If notice can be given by just one party that they wish to leave the marriage without any recourse for the party that has been left, the equality and validity of that contract and the trust and commitment vital for its success will be undermined at the outset,” said Doyle, chairman of the bishops’ Marriage and Family Life Committee.
The “cooling off” period was an “insufficient time for the couple to consider any prospect of reconciliation,” he said.
“It may, in fact, push couples headlong into making new arrangements for themselves and their children without first giving them the time necessary to work through the decision to end the marriage,” the bishop added.
He said the government should invest in “good marriage preparation and initiatives which help make marriages work.”