On 17th March 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Divorce and Dissolution and Separation Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of Carlisle Rt Revd James Newcome, spoke in support of two amendments. Both amendments were opposed by Government and were not put to vote after debate:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, much of what I might wish to say about Amendments 5 and 13* has already been mentioned, so I will not repeat it. However, from these Benches I would like to express my warm support for the main thrust of both amendments and briefly reiterate three points.
First, in both amendments, those applying for a divorce are not compelled to do anything, but they are presented with information that might make a difference not only to what they do but to the way in which they do it.
Secondly, with regard to Amendment 5, almost everyone is agreed that the divorce of a child’s parents is one of the so-called ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences—we have just heard about one of those—that can significantly affect the subsequent flourishing of the child. It seems to make every sense to bring that to the attention of the parents, as well as the fact that children apparently often tend to do better even with fractious parents than they do after a divorce, although I fully acknowledge that cases of domestic abuse are a different matter.
Thirdly, as for being given access to information about mediation and marriage counselling, as we have been reminded, it might seem a little late in the day for that, and I noted the earlier comments of other noble Lords. However, as I understand them, the statistics suggest that as many as 2,500 relationships are currently rescued each year as a direct result of this sort of intervention. That is obviously important not only for the couples but for any children involved. Several noble Lords have already emphasised that point.
Both these amendments seem to be simply a matter of common sense and care for everyone who is caught up in the trauma of a divorce. They would enhance, rather than destroy, the Bill, and I very much hope that the Minister will regard them with the favour that they clearly deserve.
* amendments 5 and 13:
Baroness Howe of Idlicote, Amdt 5:
After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Information to be provided
The Lord Chancellor must ensure that individuals applying for a divorce order who have children under the age of 18 are provided with a concise statement of the main findings from the relevant social science disciplines about the impact of divorce on different aspects of a child’s wellbeing.”
Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Amdt 13.
Insert the following new Clause—
“Relationship support, mediation and domestic abuse services
It is the duty of a Minister of the Crown to ensure that those applying for a divorce order using the website of Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service have access to information about services related to relationship support, mediation, domestic abuse and related matters“