Law should allow ‘no-fault’ divorce, says Baroness Hale

The Deputy President of the Supreme Court has come under fire for saying couples should be able to divorce without giving a reason.

Lady Hale told The Times that the law in England and Wales should change, which would remove the requirement to cite grounds such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour for a divorce.

In England and Wales, around 120,000 couples divorce each year, with unreasonable behaviour the most widely used reason.

Undermine marriage

Unreasonable behaviour is widely defined, and the behaviour only needs to be subjectively unreasonable.

Lady Hale says she wants the law to change in order to take the acrimony out of divorce proceedings.

She backed plans in 1996 to introduce no-fault divorce, but the proposals were dropped as critics said they removed responsibility and undermined the concept of marriage.

Negative impact

Columnist Jenni Russell has criticised Lady Hale’s comments, pointing out that introducing no-fault divorce will not create an amicable process.

A US study last year revealed that the negative impact of divorce on children is the same whether parents remain amicable or not.

Researchers asked 270 parents who were divorced or separated between 1998 and 2004 about how their break up had affected the youngest child in their family.

Problems

The study found that children of divorced parents were more likely than others to have behavioural problems, mental health difficulties, and were at a greater risk of performing poorly at school.

But the children’s problems were not improved regardless of whether the parents got on well with each other or continued to argue after the divorce, according to the research.

Responding to the study, Harry Benson, Research Director at the Marriage Foundation, said the notion of a ‘good divorce’ is a myth.

No sense

He commented: “This study fully exposes the mismatch between parents’ and children’s perceptions.

“Getting on well might make the parents feel better about their split. But it does little for the children. To them it makes no sense if the parents get on well yet won’t live together”, he added.

Lady Hale also called for more legal rights for unmarried couples, claiming that the law is “unsatisfactory” in this area.

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