Divorce Bill [HL] 2019-20

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill is currently going through parliament. This is the third time that the Bill has been introduced by the Government in the last eight months. The two previous Bills were lost due to the prorogation, and then dissolution, of parliament. The current Bill introduced by Lord Keen is identical to the one originally introduced in the Commons in June 2019. That bill enjoyed cross-party support in the Commons in 2019 at Second Reading and in Committee Stage. The only difference is that the current (2020) Bill was introduced in the Lords, rather than the Commons. It will still need to pass through both Houses.


The Bill, if enacted, will:

  • Retain ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole ground for divorce and civil partnership dissolution
  • Change how irretrievable breakdown is proven. A statement of irretrievable breakdown will replace the current five ‘facts’ of adultery, (unreasonable) behaviour, desertion, two year’s separation with consent or five year’s separation
  • Introduce a minimum overall waiting period of six months
  • Enable joint as well as sole applications
  • Remove the ability to contest the divorce or dissolution, other than for fraud, lack of jurisdiction or other procedural irregularities
  • Update the terminology, e.g. conditional order rather than decree nisi


The Bill was preceded by a Ministry of Justice Consultation document and ResponseFor background reading on the Bill (and the need for reform) see:

  • A  new Finding Fault briefing on research evidence for reform and likely impact of the Bill
  • The House of Lords Library Briefing on the current Bill
  • The somewhat longer House of Commons Library Briefing on the previous (identical) Bill


The Bill has completed its passage through the Lords. You can check on the current progress of the Bill in the Commons and find details of all debates and associated papers HERE