Government edges towards no-fault divorce

Ministers are looking “extremely closely” at ways of changing divorce law – including introducing no-fault divorce – a Government Whip says.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton told the House of Lords that she hopes for “progress in the near future”.

The Christian Institute has warned that no-fault divorce will “trivialise marriage”.

Marriages saved

Baroness Vere’s comments come as the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said he was “increasingly persuaded” about changing the law.

Media reports suggest a consultation on the issue will be announced in the coming months.

Currently in England and Wales, a couple must show their marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’.

Every year a large number of people use the time afforded by the process to change their minds. Typically this means over 10,000 divorces are dropped per year. Of course, not all of these couples will be finally reconciled, but it shows that people are dropping divorce proceedings in very large numbers.

Family groups say we need to be helping couples whose marriages are in difficulty, not greasing the tracks to divorce.

Children do best

At present, divorce claimants must cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation when the divorce is consensual, or five years’ separation otherwise.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “Society has an interest in trying to keep marriages together. No-fault divorce is pushing that in the wrong direction.

“Children do best when they live with both their married parents. Divorce puts children at the centre of the dispute between the divorcing spouses.”

And he added: “There is also the sense of justice. Why shouldn’t a wife who has been faithful to a philandering husband be able to get a divorce on the grounds of adultery?”

‘Progress’

Speaking on Thursday, Lady Vere said, “the Government are looking extremely closely at ways to reduce conflict in divorce, whether that be no fault, financial provisions or enforceable nuptial agreements”.

She added: “I very much hope that noble Lords will see progress in the near future.”

And Mr Gauke told The Times: “I don’t think the best way of helping the institution of marriage is by putting bureaucratic hurdles in the way of a divorce.”

Supreme Court

In July, the Supreme Court ruled against a woman who wants to divorce her husband on the grounds that she is unhappy.

Tini Owens, 68, wanted the court to allow her to split from her husband of 40 years immediately despite not being able to prove fault on his part. Mr Owens does not want to divorce.

In their ruling, judges said Mrs Owens should remain married to Mr Owens until 2020, upholding the five-year separation rule.

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