Judges call for ‘no fault’ divorce

Two senior judges want to see the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce in England, but critics say it will lead to a greater injustice in divorce cases.

The judges’ call comes as a woman lost her appeal against a court’s decision to grant her husband a divorce.

The divorce was granted under the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour”, but she contested the decision saying trivial disagreements which every couple experiences had been inflated as a result of her husband suffering from depression.

Injustice

One of the judges who is now calling for ‘no fault’ divorce suggests that the courts are, in effect, treating divorce applications as an administrative matter.

But Jill Kirby, a policy analyst who specialises in social policy, says: “The less the courts consider fault in divorce, the greater the sense of injustice felt by the spouse who thinks he or she was not to blame.”

Speaking to family lawyers on Saturday Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the High Court’s Family Division, claimed he could see “no good arguments against no-fault divorce”.

Innocent

Sir Nicholas also commented: “At the moment, it seems to me we have a system – so far as divorce itself is concerned – which is in fact administrative, but which masquerades as judicial”.

He added: “No doubt this has its roots in history. In the 19th century, and for much of the 20th, divorce was a matter of social status.

“It mattered whether you were divorced or not, and if you were, it was important to demonstrate that you were the innocent party.

Bygone

“All that, I think, has gone. Defended divorces are now effectively unheard of”, Sir Nicholas said.

Lord Justice Thorpe, in his ruling on the contested divorce, indicated his support for no-fault divorces as he claimed the current system seems to “represent the social values of a bygone age”.

Last year senior family judge Paul Coleridge said divorce has become a “form-filling exercise” which is easier than getting a driving licence.

Sir Paul criticised the “cultural revolution in sexual morality and sexual behaviour” and warned that a divorce can go through in just six weeks.

In 2010 a survey for women’s magazine More found 80 per cent of women whose parents divorced still wanted to get married.

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