Leading judge wants ‘no-fault divorce’ to replace blame approach
One of the UK’s leading judges has called for the introduction of no-fault divorces to remove the sense of blame and bitterness that accompany so many break-ups.
Baroness Hale says the current system is outdated. She wants it to be modernised so that couples don’t end up making unnecessary accusations about infidelity or unreasonable behaviour.
The problem arises because people currently have to give one of five possible reasons when seeking a divorce: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion for two or more years, two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation without consent.
People who want to get out of their marriage quickly may be tempted to accuse their spouse of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, which can lead to bitterness and make the divorce process more traumatic than necessary.
Baroness Hale wants to make it easier for divorces to be granted without one party being held at fault. However, she is opposed to quick divorces and believes couples who claim their marriage has broken down should have a 12-month cooling off period to enable them to reflect and prepare properly for their separation.
“We should make it take longer to get a divorce and encourage people to sort out what happens to the home, children and money before, rather than after, they get a divorce.”
Baroness Hale believes there is now widespread support for reform, both among lawyers and the public.
Sir Paul Coleridge, former family High Court judge and chairman of the Marriage Foundation, backed the call for no-fault divorce: “Lady Hale, a complete expert with decades of experience across this whole field, is entirely right. Our current system which pretends to be fault based is in practice and reality no such thing. The fault is largely invented to get a quick divorce - a hangover from pre-1970 days.”
Please contact Lorna Barry or Kirsty Bowers if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.