‘‘Prorogation of Parliament’’ – How many times have you heard this phrase lately? The answer is probably a lot, and almost certainly in relation to Brexit. But did you know that the prorogation of Parliament is also impacting family law?
Prorogation is the term used for the formal end of a parliamentary session. It halts nearly all parliamentary business, including most bills and all motions and parliamentary questions. Now this is important to us family lawyers, as there are two very significant family law bills currently going through Parliament. The first is the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which among other things aims to protect and support victims and their families, defines in law what constitutes domestic abuse, prohibits perpetrators from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts, provides for new draft Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders and so forth. The second is the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which aims to introduce a system of no-fault divorce.
Now as a result of the prorogation, the family law bills will either be abandoned, reintroduced from scratch in the next parliamentary session or carried over so that the scrutiny already taken place will not go to waste. Unfortunately, we now know that only three bills will be carried over, and they do not include the family law bills. This has caused a huge amount of upset to a number of people, particularly those who have spent years campaigning for reform.
In terms of what happens next, it is sincerely hoped that the government reintroduces the bills after Parliament returns on the 14 October, and indeed Women’s Aid have demanded a clear, public commitment that the draft Domestic Abuse Bill will be brought back. We are yet to receive such a commitment for either bill. If the bills are reintroduced, it is hoped that they will swiftly make their way through the legislative process, although this seems unlikely in light of the ongoing Brexit situation. Both bills are long overdue. In particular, the Domestic Abuse Bill needs implementing fast to protect victims of domestic abuse.
For now, we can only sit back and wait for the Queen’s speech, and take comfort in the comments of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who recently hinted that the draft Domestic Abuse Bill will be returning. Sadly the future of the draft Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill is less clear.
If you are impacted by any of the issues highlighted in this blog or would like advice on family matters, click here to speak to a member of BLM’s family law team.