Prorogation of Parliament – The impact on ‘no-fault’ divorce and family law


Important changes to family proceedings have not become law as a result of the recent suspension of Parliament (‘prorogation’.) One of the consequences of the prorogation of Parliament is that bills which were passing through Parliament at the time of prorogation are dropped.  These bills cannot automatically be carried over from one parliamentary session to the next, without either an express “carry-over” motion allowing this or if the government commits to putting them back on to the parliamentary list.

Two key bills for family law, the ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation’ bill and the ‘Domestic Abuse’ bill, were passing through Parliament at the time of prorogation of Parliament.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation bill has been long over-due and came about after many years of campaigning by family lawyers for ‘no fault’ divorce, and following the recently reported and unfortunate outcome in the Supreme Court case of Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41. In that case, Mrs. Owens had to remain married to her husband until she had been separated from him for five years as he was unwilling to agree to a divorce. (See our earlier blog on ‘no fault divorce’.) 

The bill would have introduced changes to divorce law which would enable an individual to apply for a divorce without having to accuse the other party of wrong-doing or without having to wait for a lengthy period before they are able to divorce.

The Domestic Abuse Bill would have introduced rules to prevent domestic abuse victims from being cross-examined by their perpetrators. A number of domestic violence charities have since written to the Prime Minister seeking assurances that the bill will be reintroduced. The Prime Minister has since announced the Domestic Abuse bill will be reintroduced as part of the Queen’s Speech on 14 October 2019, however, that remains to be seen.

The Government’s decision to ‘prorogue’ of Parliament is currently subject to an appeal in the Supreme Court, which began today (17 September 2019) and is due to last three days.  We will update this blog when judgment has been handed down.

If you require advice or information on any aspect of Family Law please contact our lawyers - Mitali Zakaria, Somia Siddiq, Priyanka Chakravarty or Alexandra Wilks.

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