• The Church of England’s Influence on the Divorce Reform Act 1969

      Kay, Roger; Bolton, Mike; Sinclair, Rosemary M. (University of Chester, 2017-02)
      This study traces the Church of England’s influence on the development of the Divorce Reform Act 1969 from 1964, with the setting up of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s group to examine divorce law, to the end of the 1970s, by which time the special procedure was used in all undefended divorces. The first chapter analyses the Archbishop’s Group itself, its formation, membership, deliberations and conclusions, contained in its report, Putting Asunder: A Divorce Law for Contemporary Society. The second chapter examines the negotiations which took place between the Group and the Law Commission, from which emerged a document known as The Consensus. The third chapter demonstrates how The Consensus evolved, first into a draft bill, and subsequently into the Divorce Reform Act 1969, as a result of its passage through Parliament. The final chapter examines the statutory interpretation of the Act by the courts to assess how much of the recommendations of the Putting Asunder remained ten years after the law was implemented. The methodology used is that of a legal historian and thereby the work differs in emphasis from studies done on this legislation by theologians, historians and sociologists. It focuses primarily on a detailed analysis of the change in the law during that period, as influenced by the Church of England. Thus, it closely examines the workings of law reform groups, negotiations and drafting of the Bill, the Bill’s passage through Parliament, and statutory interpretation of the Act in the courts. It builds on the work of others, particularly that of Professor Stephen Cretney, an eminent academic lawyer who analysed the part the Archbishop Group’s Report played in the process of divorce reform. This work develops this theme but appraises that role of the Church of England more comprehensively. It uses some of the historical and legal materials used by others, but also some material not previously used such as the Dunstan Papers, the papers of D. R. Dunstan, a member of the Archbishop’s groups and biographical materials of other members of the Group and their own writings. This gives a more detailed understanding of why the Church of England contributed in the way it did. The thesis concludes that whilst the Church of England appeared a powerful influence on the Divorce Reform Act 1969, its influence was constrained by its agreement with the Law Commission. It did contribute to the Divorce Reform Bill becoming an Act, but was not able to safeguard the conditions on which its support for the new concept of law, irretrievable breakdown of marriage, was based.