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No-fault divorce will not spell the end of civilisation

Yet again I find myself basing a post upon something I came across on Twitter. Clearly, Twitter is a better source of legal information and debate than I had given it credit…

I also find myself discussing once again the views espoused by The Conservative Woman. As I have professed here previously, I don’t often read this esteemed publication (or is it just a website?). Honestly.

The particular article in said publication is by one Thomas Pascoe (I’m not sure how a man can express the views of the Conservative woman, but I’ll leave that conundrum to one side) and is entitled “To walk away from marriage is to abandon your duty”. Hmm. Not an encouraging start. And it gets worse. Let me repeat the first two paragraphs:

“Few would contest that public debate in Britain has become more barbarous. It has become barbarous in a very specific sense: that a desire to do something is very often presented as the sole possible criterion for action.

“This is the refuge of the savage. Civilisation is based almost entirely on people acting with other things in view than their immediate desires.”

I’m sorry? We are talking about marriage here, aren’t we? Barbarous? Savage? Aren’t we getting just a little carried away?

Ahem. I will happily skip the next few paragraphs of the article and get to my point, where Mr Pascoe says:

“The Times, Suella Fernandes MP and many high-net-worth law firms are currently engaged in a campaign for no-fault divorce, effectively allowing a person to resign from a marriage whenever they feel like it. This is a serious attack on the institution of marriage and would cause deep misery to many families. It should be opposed at every step.”

Where to start with this? I have, of course, previously written here of the recent achievement of the no-fault divorce campaigners, in persuading our new Lord Chancellor to examine the case for reform. Yes, The Times has been running a campaign, and yes, Suella Fernandes has called for reform. However, then Mr Pascoe lets slip his partisanship by only otherwise referring to ‘high-net-worth law firms’, as if the real reason behind the campaign is to increase the number of divorces, and therefore increase the already over-inflated profits of said firms. In fact, the call for no-fault divorce has nothing whatsoever to do with such things. Nor is it dominated by highly paid lawyers – it is supported by family lawyers across the board, from those practising on the High Street, to those practising in some of the most prestigious firms in the country. Mr Pascoe also omits to mention that the real leader of the campaign, for at least the last twenty years, has been Resolution, the association of family lawyers whose ethos is to deal with divorce in a constructive, non-confrontational way.

Moving on, the campaign for no-fault divorce has also never been about “allowing a person to resign from a marriage whenever they feel like it”. It is primarily about reducing conflict in divorce, by removing the unnecessary need to attribute blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Note the words ‘breakdown of the marriage’. As Resolution say:

“Removing blame from divorce will not make it more likely that people will separate. It will simply make it easier for people to manage their separation with as little conflict and stress as possible and reduce the likelihood that they will end up in court.”

The marriage has already broken down by the time divorce proceedings have been instituted. As I have said here many times previously, people do not decide to end their marriages on a whim – they do so after careful consideration. No one is going to decide that their marriage is over simply because the process of divorce has been simplified.

Then we have the ‘attack on the institution of marriage’ argument wheeled out again. No one is attacking the institution of marriage – the calls for no-fault divorce have nothing whatsoever to do with undermining marriage. In fact, I’m sure that many of the advocates for reform would describe themselves as staunch supporters of the institution. Why should making the process of divorce less painful weaken marriage? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Lastly, we come to the ‘divorce causes misery to families’ argument. Well, it can do, but it can also be a positive, freeing the parties, and more importantly their children, from the misery of an unhappy relationship. As has been said elsewhere, a good divorce can be better than a bad marriage for children.

Sadly, The Conservative Woman is not unique in expressing these misguided views. We therefore need to get the message out, not just about what no-fault divorce is about, but also what it is not about: it is not about selfishness, it is not about undermining the institution of marriage, and it will not spell the end of civilisation as we know it!

Photo by Cordell and Cordell via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Stitchedup says:

    John, if lawyers genuinely want no fault divorce then they should refrain from encouraging women to make domestic abuse allegations to secure legal aid, custody of the children, occupation of the family home and better financial settlements. The truth is, no fault divorce will rarely work as women have too much to gain by attributing blame to the man, and the easiest way to attribute blame without needing to provide proof is to make a domestic abuse allegation. For no fault divorce to work you need to first remove the incentives to attribute blame or fault. That said, imho the most abusive thing a person can do to their spouse is to be unfaithful, yet the courts just seem to shrug infidelity off and sweep it under the carpet. Divorce and separation are being pedalled as if its the best thing since sliced bread by many lawyers and law firms, but of course, they also encourage marriage, because without marriage there wouldn’t be any divorce would there?

  2. John says:

    Good post
    Regarding Thomas Pascoe’s words: “This is the refuge of the savage. Civilisation is based almost entirely on people acting with other things in view than their immediate desires.”

    So in other words, countries and cultures that have no fault divorce (for instance Australia, some Muslim societies, Spain…) are populated or run by savages?

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