No-Fault Divorce Could End the Blame Game
No-Fault Divorce Could End the Blame Game
The National Family Mediation (NFM) is urging the government to reform family law by introducing no-fault divorce in the light of new research which suggests courts cannot test if allegations of fault are legitimate or not, creating conflict which affects negotiations over children and finances. The charity says outdated divorce laws mean someone has to be proved at fault even when a couple agree on the need to separate – so instigating a “bidding war” which can turn into a full court battle.
Jane Robey, NFM chief executive, said: “We know from experience that very often a couple that has decided to separate just wants to get on with it, so they can make a fresh start. Yet outdated laws that mean someone has to be proved at fault create a bidding war which then often escalates to a full-blown courtroom battle.”
Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of Marriage Foundation, endorsed the charity’s call, saying: “Surely it is time for government and parliament to stop dithering and confront this issue which was fully reformed and then shelved more than 20 years ago. All aspects of the law relating to our domestic relationships deserve proper and full review and reform now. There is no excuse for further delay when this area of law affects us all.”
Political parties urged to commit to reforming divorce laws
Resolution, the 6,500-strong association of family lawyers, is also calling for a change to divorce law. In a letter to the main political parties, its chairman Nigel Shepherd urges four specific reforms: no-fault divorce, basic rights for cohabiting couples, fair access to the family justice system, and more financial clarity on divorce.
He says current law discourages amicable divorce and that “people often have to cite unreasonable behaviour or adultery on the petition,” leading to unnecessary conflict and reducing the likelihood of reaching agreement on children and financial issues.
In his letter, Mr Shepherd calls for the law to be changed to allow for a divorce to be “finalised where one or both of the parties to a marriage give notice that their marriage has broken down irretrievably and one or both of them are still of that view after six months,” also adding that “separating couples would be supported by information to help them explore whether the marriage can be saved and/or on the different process options available to them, as well as parenting information.”
A recent survey of family law professionals found that over 90% believe that no-fault divorce should be available to separating couples. A majority of the public also support a change in the law: a recent YouGov poll found 69% of respondents agree that people should be allowed to divorce without blame.
Divorces skewed by ‘over-chivalrous’ judges
A leading female peer has claimed judges are sticking to antiquated notions of chivalry in awarding women maintenance payments which extend years into the future.
Baroness Deech has tabled a bill calling for a three-year cap to be placed on most maintenance payments, arguing that many divorcees go on to earn good salaries. The bill is set to go to the Committee stage after passing its second reading in the House of Lords.
Baroness Deech, the former chair of the Bar Standards Board, said: “Our judges are being very old fashioned I’m afraid. They are over-chivalrous and the way they were in the 19th century. People wonder why, 15 years after a marriage has ended, one person has to keep paying money to another.”
She said there was an “assumption throughout the legal system that once a woman is married she is somehow disabled and incapable ever of managing on her own.”
IBB’s divorce law expert, Amanda Melton, commented:
“Whilst it can be the case that some divorcing women are very capable and can move on to fend for themselves quite easily, there are those who married young, had children and never pursued a career of their own. This seriously limits their ability to earn in later life which is exactly the time that most couples divorce.
Surely it would be oversimplifying matters to suggest that all maintenance should be cut off after three years? What about a lady who has lived a comfortable lifestyle living with a husband who was and still is a significant earner who has never had the opportunity of pursuing a career for herself.
Is it fair for her to have no income after divorce and to allow her, probably by then, adult children see her struggling financially? Whilst it may be the case that Judges need to be a little more even-handed about this issue it cannot be correct that the discretion to award maintenance is taken away from them completely. To do so would result in cases of real hardship and massive unfairness”.
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