Judge questions courts role in divorce

Leading family judge Sir James Munby has indicated that there may be further radical changes to the way in which divorces are dealt with in the UK questioning the need for the courts’ involvement and pushing for reforms to remove the current fault based system.

The announcement, made during a conference in Wales, criticised the Government which according to Munby, ‘has failed to act’ on making the changes which, in his view, are ‘desperately needed – have been desperately needed for at least 40 years’.

Lyndsay Jackson, family specialist at Linder Myers Solicitors in Preston commented: “This is a welcome announcement and, if implemented, would significantly reduce the stress of divorce for many separating couples. Under the current system in the UK, unless there is a period of 2 or 5 years separation, blame has to be apportioned to one of the parties during proceedings. This not only conflicts with recent changes designed to reduce the number of cases escalating to the courts, but is also not what many couples want.

“There are a number of reasons which lead to the breakdown of a marriage including couples who have simply grown apart or fallen out of love over time. It’s difficult in these circumstances when clients are already understandably upset that their marriage has ended to advise them that the law obliges them to blame their partner before a divorce is granted – some simply make a reason up because they have to.

“I share Sir Munby’s view that further reforms are needed to the Family Justice System bringing the UK in line with a number of countries where no fault divorces have been allowed for decades in some cases.”

Australia has allowed for no fault divorces following a 12 month period of separation since 1975 but an element of ‘fault’ is still required in children and financial matters. Canada has a similar 12 month separation period with no requirement for fault to be proved and several European countries including Sweden and Spain also operate a ‘faultless’ divorce system. Jackson continued: “With more out of court options available to separating couples including mediation, collaborative law and arbitration, continuing with a fault based system simply doesn’t make sense anymore.”