April 13, 2015

Is fault free divorce in everyone’s best interests?

The news that Britain’s most senior female judge wants to see ‘no blame’ divorces is being welcomed by many lawyers and critics of current divorce laws.

Interviewed in The Times newspaper, Baroness Hale of Richmond calls for the modernisation of legislation and an end to the current system of one person being ‘at fault’.

Currently around 120,000 couples a year who want a speedy divorce in England or Wales must cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour as reason.  Baroness Hale, who is deputy president to the Supreme Court, contends that removing the need to blame one party should help alleviate bitterness.

Lady Hale’s views echo those of Resolution, the association representing 6,500 collaborative lawyers and professionals.  In its recent manifesto, Resolution named an end to ‘blame’ divorces as one of its six key areas for change in divorce laws.

However, is ‘no fault’ divorce the answer to ending acrimony when a marriage breaks down?

As collaborative lawyers, our ethos at Jones Myers is to encourage our clients to avoid confrontation when separating and divorcing.  However, we also know that pointing the finger of blame at a philandering husband or unfaithful wife might sometimes offer a cathartic release for someone who is hurting desperately because of the actions of their ex.

Perhaps an admission of ‘adultery’ or, more usually, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ frees the person who feels most hard done by or let down, allowing them to move on with their life. If a blameless divorce becomes the norm, might an embittered partner hold their ex to ransom over issues of money or find ways to drag out divorce?

Baroness Hale, who first mooted the idea of ‘no fault’ divorces 20 years ago, is also calling for the introduction of a one year cooling off period after the breakdown of a marriage.  During that year couples would sort out arrangements for children, home and finances before a divorce is granted.

We certainly agree that our divorce laws are long overdue an overhaul, but perhaps ‘playing the blame game’ might sometimes be in a couple’s best interests?

If you have any questions or comments about separation or divorce, please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail.