Beach Bench Solo

That England’s divorce laws are 'outdated, inadequate, unfair and in need of urgent reform' is a common view held by many family lawyers and solicitors.

There is strong support for the abolition of fault-based divorce, in which spouses accuse each other of unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion, creating bitter court battles. Our current law provides that there is only one ground for divorce, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This can be proved in a number of different ways but it is not possible for a couple to get a divorce without blame unless they have been separated for at least two years and they both consent.

It is a view that has been advocated by Sir James Munby, by the President of the High Court Family Division who said in his speech in April 2014;

“Has the time not come to legislate to remove all concepts of fault as a basis for divorce and to leave irretrievable breakdown as the sole ground? Has the time not come to uncouple the process of divorce from the process of adjudicating claims for financial relief following divorce, just as we have finally uncoupled the process of divorce from the process of adjudicating disputes about the children following divorce? Indeed, may the time not come when we should at least consider whether the process of divorce still needs to be subject to judicial supervision?”

The President was essentially echoing the recommendations of the Family Justice Review. What is evident from this is that there are three possible areas of future reform, firstly, the separation of divorce from claims for financial provision. Secondly, an end to judicial supervision of the divorce process. Thirdly, the abolition of the concept of fault from the law of divorce.

So how would these reforms be implemented?

Currently in order to make an application for a financial order divorce proceedings must have been instigated. The reforms being advocated would separate the two so that a financial order could be made without having to having to file a divorce petition. Given that the reasons for divorce make no difference to any financial settlement or children arrangements this would seem inherently sensible.

Secondly, to have the formal introduction of an administrative process and to remove judicial involvement where the divorce is straight forward, there are no children and it is not being contested by other parties.

Thirdly, to remove the concept of blame from the divorce process.

Fitzhugh Gates Solicitors Comment

It remains to be seen whether these reforms will be introduced but there is certainly strong support for a change to our current divorce laws.


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