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13 April 2015

Top judge calls for 'no-blame' divorces

Divorce laws in England and Wales should remove the need for allegations of adultery and blame, Britain’s most senior female judge has said reports The Daily Mail.

Baroness Hale of Richmond said that she wanted to see the bitterness taken out of most matrimonial disputes so a person does not need to be held at fault in order to obtain a divorce.

Divorcing couples currently have to cite one of five reasons: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion for two or more years; two years’ separation with consent; or five years’ separation without consent. The second reason – unreasonable behaviour’ – is by far the most widely used.

Around 120,000 couples divorce in England and Wales each year and those who want to divorce quickly are encouraged to cite unfaithfulness or unreasonable behaviour, which, critics argue, encourages recriminations.

Lady Hale, who is deputy president to the Supreme Court and the only woman among the 12 Supreme Court justices, also wants couples to be made to sort out arrangements for children and money before obtaining a divorce as part of the overhaul.

She told The Times: ‘We should make it take longer to get a divorce and encourage people to sort out what happens to the home, children, money before, rather than after, they get a divorce.’

Couples would have a one-year ‘cooling off period’ after declaring that their marriage had permanently broken down in order for them to sort out arrangements.

Lady Hale, 70, was behind the move for ‘no fault’ divorce in England and Wales 20 years ago.

Conservative MPs saw off the proposals and said that removing fault would take away responsibility and undermine the concept of marriage.

Last night campaigners and lawyers backed the proposed overhaul.

Sir Paul Coleridge, former family High Court judge and chairman of the Marriage Foundation, told The Times: ‘Lady Hale, a complete expert with decades of experience across this whole field, is entirely right. Our current system which pretends to be fault-based is in practice and reality no such thing. The fault is largely invented to get a quick divorce — a hangover from pre-1970 days which is manipulated by lawyers and parties.’