A bill introducing ‘no-fault’ divorces in England and Wales will be debated by MPs later.
Currently in order to start divorce proceedings immediately, one spouse has to allege adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion has taken place.
Under the proposed law, they will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
It is expected to pass its first hurdle in the Commons, although some Conservatives oppose the bill.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill – which has been passed by the House of Lords – also removes the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce.
At the moment, someone wishing to obtain a divorce without the consent of their spouse must live apart from them for five years.
Divorce proceedings will still be challengeable on certain grounds including fraud and coercion. Currently fewer than 2% of divorce cases are contested.
The bill also introduces a new option, allowing couples to jointly apply for a divorce, where the decision to separate is a mutual one.
And it replaces the terms “decree nisi” and “decree absolute” with “conditional order” and “final order”. “Petitioners” will also become “applicants”.
Under the proposals, there must be a minimum six-month period between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.
The move to change divorce laws was partly prompted by the case of Tini Owens – a woman from Worcestershire who wanted to divorce her husband of 40 years.
However, because her husband contested the split, the law stated she could only obtain a divorce by living apart from him for five years.
Mrs Owens said she was “desperately unhappy” in the marriage but Mr Owens disagreed and said the couple still had a “few years” to enjoy.
In 2018, her case was heard and rejected by Supreme Court justices – one of whom said, they had ruled against Mrs Owens with “no enthusiasm whatsoever” and that it was up to Parliament to change the law.
Supported by Labour, the bill is expected to clear its first hurdle – its second reading – in the House of Commons, however some Conservatives have expressed opposition.
In a letter to the Telegraph, MPs including Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir John Hayes and Fiona Bruce urged the government to focus on helping couples reconcile instead of “undermining the commitment of marriage”.
They said the bill was badly-timed arguing that many “otherwise durable” marriages were under “intense Covid-related strain”.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will always uphold the institution of marriage. But when divorce cannot be avoided, the law must not create conflict between couples that so often harms the children involved.
“Our reforms remove the needless ‘blame game’, while ensuring there is a minimum six-month time frame to allow for reflection and the opportunity to turn back.”