Call for end to divorce ‘charade’

Divorce|October 13th 2015

The “charade” some couples are forced to perpetrate in order to secure a divorce must end, Resolution has declared.

Of the 118,000 divorces in England and Wales every year, 57 per cent involve one partner accusing the other of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. In current English law, these are two of the five possible ways to demonstrate the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Others include desertion, separation for two years with consent and separation for five years with no consent needed.

According to family law organisation Resolution, because divorcing couples have to cite one of these reasons for their marital breakdown, 27 per cent will falsely claim there has been either adultery or unreasonable behaviour in their marriage. Furthermore according to their spokesman the current system in England and Wales forces “couples to make false allegations in court in order to have their divorce finalised within a reasonable time”.

Resolution believe that living apart for two years is “financially and emotionally untenable for many people” and means that people who want to bring their marriage to an end often resort to “an untrue allegation in court of adultery or unreasonable behaviour”. Their spokesman declared that the “charade needs to be ended”.

Meanwhile the Conservative MP for South Norfolk has proposed the inclusion of no fault divorce in English law, meaning couples would not have to cite a reason for the breakdown of their marriage. Richard Bacon is set to introduce a ten minute rule bill today to raise the issue. In such bills, backbenchers are limited to a ten minute speech when they first put their ideas to the House of Commons.

Mr Bacon said that “couples who do not want to apportion blame may be pushed by the law along a path they do not wish to take” under the current rules.

He added:

“A signed declaration by each party to a divorce that the marriage had broken down irretrievably should be sufficient”.

Mr Bacon also suggested a “cooling off” period of around 12 months before such divorces are finalised because marriages can sometimes be saved.

Baroness Deech writing today in The Brief for The Times, a proponent of strict division of financial assets, however makes a different point. She believes fault should not be eradicated from divorce.

Me? I remember in 1996 when divorce reform was last mooted. Amendment upon amendment was made to get the Bill abolishing fault in divorce through and but it actually ended up an unworkable hotchpotch which was ultimately never brought into force and ditched.

If divorce reform is required (and I am a modernist and would consign fault to the dark ages where I firmly believe it belongs) I would like to see swift consensual divorce, in a simplified system. Where I diverge with Mr Bacon is in relation to a 12 month wait period between decree nisi and decree absolute. In that regard I see from him, echoes of the same nanny state attitude that destroyed the last attempt. If people want to get divorced, let them without such an over long wait.

Overall however, to get it absolutely right, I would leave the issue of law reform to the Law Commisssion whose job it is. Sir Paul Coleridge in the past has called for a Royal Commisssion to examine the entire subject. Perhaps now is time. But the problem as we found with Cohabitation Law Reform is that however necessary and good the proposal, ultimately it is the job of the politicians to introduce the Bill and ensure it becomes law. Stuck in the Houses of Parliament I’m afraid there are still far too many cooks determined to get involved, and we all found out in 1996 how their broth ended up.

Photo by Sunchild57 Photography via Flickr

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