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Divorce reform and the Video Assistant Referee

Date:18 SEP 2019
Third slide
Chief Executive, NFM

Divorce reform was long-campaigned for, and long-awaited.

Earlier this year, supporters of law change believed the waiting game was over, and that the campaign had been won.

The previous government, under Theresa May, promised to leave an indelible mark on family law history when it brought forward the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.

Yet its successor administration, completely driven by Brexit and associated internal party struggles, has ensured that entry to the history books is at best delayed.

With the decision to prorogue Parliament, the Prime Minister halted a Bill that would have made life so much easier for couples who just want to get on with their divorce, making a fresh start as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Professionals across the whole of our mediator network were delighted to finally see the introduction of this vital new legislation into Parliament. Having passed its second reading in the House of Commons it moved to Report Stage.

But its further progress has been put into ‘freeze-frame’ mode by the Prime Minister’s controversial and contentious decision.

And so the waiting goes on.

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The impact on this new law of Parliament’s prorogation - and the associated court cases questioning legality of the PM’s decision - is like the effect of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) upon Premier League football matches.

 The joy of a goal being scored is muted when the VAR call is made. TV freeze frames are deployed. Nobody knows for sure whether the goal is going to be allowed to stand - until the ultimate VAR arbiters have cast judgement.

And so it is that at the time of nobody knows when, or if, divorce reform will finally come into play.

What a frustrating time.

We have all lived through a period in the last few years when British politics has become hugely volatile. And massively unpredictable. Yet surely there can be no doubt that thanks to widespread support enjoyed by this divorce reform legislation, it will be reintroduced to Parliament soon. Can there?

After years of campaigning for change, NFM and other organisations will continue to press for these important reforms to be introduced as soon as possible, so that divorcing couples will at last be able to settle their divorce or separation in a more mature and adult fashion than the current arcane system allows.