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Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016: Second Stage

"Changes in the rules relating to divorce are afoot in England and Wales so this debate is timely. This morning's headlines were about reform to end the blame game between couples who are divorcing in Britain. It is currently the case that fault-based divorces, where there are allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, take as little as three to six months to be completed. However, no-fault divorces can take much longer because couples have to prove they are living apart for at least one year in Scotland and two years in England, though certainly not the four-year term currently required in Ireland. The point is to change the rules so that couples will only have to state that marriage has broken down irretrievably. Furthermore, the rule change will prevent one partner refusing a divorce if the other one wants it although currently in England such a situation only affects 2% to 3% of divorcees.

Most of these changes are aimed at reducing stress and acrimony and allowing a time of reflection. It is proposed to provide for a period of six months from petition stage to decree absolute.

A key concern of the proposed changes is the protection of children by reducing ongoing conflict between partners. Finding fault, apportioning blame and having to prove a separation of two or five years were not seen as helpful. Furthermore, the justice system first and foremost attempts to resolve issues in a non-confrontational way. It is with this in mind that I support the Government's proposed amendments to the Constitution, especially as they are based on there being no reasonable prospect of reconciliation between the spouses. Having considered all circumstances, including children and others under any other conditions proscribed in law or complied with, anyone dealing with divorces will testify that no one enters into divorce proceedings lightly and very few come through them unscathed. The amendments are reasonable and do not in any way undermine or devalue the sanctity of marriage. They merely move with the times by ensuring the Constitution is completely fit for purpose."

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