Leading lawyers call for quicker 'no-fault' divorces

Three in four professionals say current system in which one person must be to blame is driving couples into the courts

Britain's medieval fault-based divorce system must be reformed so that couples are free to end their marriage without having to blame each other for the break-up, an overwhelming majority of lawyers have told the Government.

The call for a change to a law which has its origins in the matrimonial disputes of Henry VIII is supported by senior judges who share concerns that the rules create an acrimonious divorce culture.

Three out of four of Britain's top 100 divorce lawyers said they want ministers to revisit the controversial subject of "no fault" divorces proposed by John Major's government in 1996.

But despite growing evidence that a fault basis for divorce drives couples to the courts to settle their differences, neither Labour nor the Conservatives now support a change in the law.

Lawyers told the consumer law website TakeLegalAdvice.com that families would suffer far less during the separation if the husband and wife did not have to cite unreasonable behaviour or one of the other grounds for a quick divorce.

In the run-up to the general election, David Cameron's Tories are looking to strengthen the institution of marriage rather than make it easier to divorce. Yesterday Labour said it no plans to make divorces more amicable. Yet 10 years ago both parties were falling over each other to come up with the best policy to end fault-based divorces.

Mr Major's proposals to bring in a law which would achieve this result were enthusiastically taken up by Tony Blair in 1997 and then abandoned in 2001 after a media backlash.

Suzanne Kingston, head of family at Dawsons law firm, told TakeLegalAdvice: "England and Wales lag behind many other jurisdictions in not having a mutual consent option or no fault approach which does not involve a substantial waiting period, and it is time it came into line with many other jurisdictions."

In the last few years, a number of public divorce battles have shown how the law has helped to stoke the fires of acrimony in splits involving the rich and famous.

Sir Paul McCartney filed for divorce in July 2006 in the hope of a quick settlement with his estranged wife Heather Mills. Both wanted an amicable split, for the sake of their then two-year-old daughter, Beatrice. But Sir Paul's petition for the break-up of the four-year marriage is understood to have cited his ex-wife's "unreasonable behaviour". Similar grounds have been cited in the divorces of Madonna and Guy Ritchie, and Gary Lineker and his former wife Michele.

The architects of Britain's first divorce laws, which influence the rules today, designed the legislation to reflect society's disapproval of a breakdown in a marriage which often had a negative social consequence for women. Many family law judges believe this to be flawed and feel it undermines the institution of marriage.Ms Kingston said the reason for a divorce is invariably irrelevant to the real issues which need to be addressed, and the lack of co-operation between the couple can lead to traumatic, lengthy and costly proceedings to resolve property and financial matters.

"A civilised society deserves a civilised divorce process which encourages people to look forward rather than what happened in the past. People divorce for many different reasons, not because of the nature of the divorce process itself." She added that children were often the first to suffer in an acrimonious divorce.

TakeLegalAdvice said that 2009 saw more children feeling the brunt of the unhappy home, with 66 per cent of divorce lawyers reporting an increase in child-related issues including a rise in international abductions. Couples who want to divorce in less than two years will have to continue to prove adultery, unreasonable behaviour or one of the other three grounds.

"Anyone not wanting to wait two years or more for a divorce has to prove 'unreasonable behaviour' or adultery on the part of their husband and wife. Although for some couples this is appropriate, for many it simply adds animosity and more heartache to an already distressing process," said Nicholas Longford, chair of Resolution, which represents over 5,500 family lawyers in England and Wales.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor