Making Divorce Easier

A bill introducing “no-fault” divorces in England and Wales has been backed by MPs who this week voted for its second reading by a large majority.

As the law currently stands, to start divorce proceedings one party has to allege that adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion has taken place. Under the new law it will only have to be stated that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

We recognise that we are all sinners, and sometimes marriages do break down and must be ended. We support any changes to the law that reduces the lengthy, acrimonious and costly process for those going through a divorce, a practice which heaps further pain and suffering on those who are already hurting. Many of us involved in pastoral ministry have seen the damaging effects on the people involved, especially the children, and how the legal costs can often leave both partners struggling financially.

However, we also uphold marriage vows as a serious commitment. We do not want to re-enforce the idea that marriage is a casual commitment that can be broken without consequence – the equivalent of leaving a social club or association. Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and woman and we want to strive to maintain its sanctity. This bill seems to downgrade marriage to a simple contract with very few commitments on either side.

The way in which marriage is being devalued in our society also points up to us the need in our churches to be encouraging marriage preparation and enrichment courses. We need to guard our own marriages and equip people in our churches to face the challenges ahead as they enter upon this lifelong union.

We are also sad that legislating for divorce has been given such a priority during this time of national lockdown, rather than seeking to find ways for couples who wish to get married to be able to do so, especially those who wish to marry in church buildings.

Graham Nicholls is Director of Affinity

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