Could divorce become an over-the-counter process in which unhappy couples end their relationship with a rubber-stamped form? That was the prospect raised in yesterday’s edition of The Times.
In a new article, journalist Frances Gibb explores plans by Family Division President Sir James Munby to introduce administration centres which would handle most divorce cases in England. It is a vision of the future in which most divorcing couples bypass the courts altogether, one in which the vast majority of divorce cases flow uncontested through a bureaucratic process no more complex or fraught than applying for a passport or renewing your TV licence.
The proposal would affect divorces in which neither party disputes the proceedings or makes claims over money or children. It follows the President’s call back in April for registrars to handle divorce. A new working group established by Sir James to examine the idea was due to hold its first meeting today.
Frances Gibb rang to ask my views on the idea. On the face of things, handling divorce in an administrative manner is a simple acknowledgement of the reality that most cases are relatively straightforward – unless there are significant assets involved – and uncontested. As fellow blogger John Bolch has rightly noted, once one party has started the ball rolling, there is little the other can do to stop it. All they can do is try to ensure they receive a fair settlement.
But even if most divorces are rumble through the courts in uncomplicated fashion, I still believe that the courts are the right venue for the end of a marriage. The involvement of a judge is an acknowledgement of the solemnity and seriousness of such unions. Getting married is a not a casual undertaking and ending such a contract should be an equally weighty process I believe. The consequences of a rash decision or poorly though through move could be with you for the rest of your life – and your children’s lives as well.
And of course, not every couple completes the divorce process, remember Some, given time to consider their true feelings, reconcile before the decree absolute is issued.
Read the full Times article here.