Senior judges have again raised the need for a law on ‘no fault divorce’ saying that the current system of divorce laws was not in sync with the times.
Lord Justice Thorpe gave his view in an Appeal Court ruling on a contested divorce.
In the case of Susan Rae, who believed minor disagreements had been wrongly interpreted as ‘unreasonable behaviour’, he said that he felt sad that the wife was not able to accept what has happened to her.
A ‘no fault’ divorce law removing the need for fault in divorces was passed by John Major’s Conservative government in 1996. It was backed by judges, lawyers, academics and charities but its detractors said it would encourage couples to break up.
The Family Law Act 1996 was seen as unworkable in trials, and Tony Blair’s government scrapped the plan to introduce no-fault divorces. But legal luminaries, kept on lobbying for the law.
Sir Nicholas Wall, who as president of the High Court’s Family Division and was a member of the Whitehall advisory group in 1996 in a speech to family lawyers said that at the moment so far as divorce itself was concerned it was in fact administrative process which was given a judicial mask he added.
Lord Justice Thorpe said that the divorce laws remained unchanged since 1969. The no fault proposals would have meant that divorce proceedings need not be go through the painful hearings designed to establish fault.
He said that if the no fault proposals were implemented then, there would have been no need for these painful investigations, which has become symbols of social values of the past and no more relevant today.
Sir Nicholas Wall said that the roots of fault finding dated back in history. In the 19th century, and for much of the 20th, divorce was a matter of social status. Divorce was a serious issue then and it did matter who was at fault and who was the innocent party. All that, is no more relevant and defended divorces were now effectively unheard of he added.
At present, couples can be legally parted within six months if one party is shown to be at fault. The most common grounds are unreasonable behaviour, which can include committing adultery or devoting too much time to one’s career.
Politicians and family experts yesterday warned against removing fault from divorce.