The most senior family judge in England and Wales has said that it is time to simplify ‘no-fault’ divorces and suggests that there is no need for a judge to be involved in such cases, as they could be handled by a registrar.
Sir James Munby, who is president of the Family Division of the High Court, said that divorce by consent, where both parties want to separate, has existed in practice for 30 years, so his proposal would merely be the logical conclusion to this.
At the moment, a district judge must assess whether allegations amount to unreasonable behaviour, even when both parties are often already in agreement. Therefore, removing fault would a positive step, Sir James argued, and would leave irretrievable breakdown as the sole grounds for a divorce.
Sir James said that divorce by consent, where there are no children to consider, is treated as an administrative matter in many other countries, and could be here, if a registrar were used for this purpose. He added that the move would be unlikely to lead to higher divorce rates, as it would make divorce no easier than it is at the moment.
However, critics of the proposal insist that divorce should remain a legal process, as it is the dissolution of a legally binding contract of marriage, so removing it from judicial supervision could make it open to abuse.
Voicing his ideas at a news conference this week, Sir James also called for more rights for unmarried women in the event of a relationship breakdown, as they can be “thrown on the scrapheap”, even after many years in relationship, whereas if they had been married for the same amount of time, they would have been well looked after.
For more information about divorce and family law matters, speak to the family law solicitors at Mackrell Turner Garrett
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