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Baroness Hale of Richmond calls for no-blame divorces

Date:9 APR 2015
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Family law experts back calls for changes which could reduce stress of separation.

Specialist family lawyers have given their support to new calls for the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales, describing the move as a 'common sense approach' which could reduce the stress that separating couples currently endure.

Baroness Hale of Richmond has reiterated her stance that the concept should be introduced, telling The Times that the current need for couples to cite reasons such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour should be abolished.

Her calls have come after an interview in December with the Evening Standard, when she said such a move would mean couples can end their marriages simply by saying the relationship had failed, without implying blame on either side.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Family Law team have backed the suggestion, stating that the introduction of a no-fault divorce concept is now long overdue.

Elizabeth Hicks, a Partner and expert in family law at Irwin Mitchell, said:

'We have long believed that no-fault divorce could be applicable to a huge number of couples, making its introduction a common sense approach to the issue of relationship breakdown.
In so many of the cases we see, those looking to divorce are simply seeking a straightforward resolution which will ensure they can quickly move on with their lives. They are therefore very surprised when they learn that those who begin the process of divorce are required to allege fault of the other party – unless they have been separated for more than two years. 
This step can create major complications and disputes between couples, often leading to a difficult atmosphere which is far from ideal when it comes to resolving matters in relation to a family’s financial situation or arrangements for contact with children.
The introduction of no-fault divorce could have a major impact in this regard, as it will ensure couples can maintain their focus on the process of separation rather than developing any animosity regarding who is ultimately to blame for the problems they have faced.
The time has undoubtedly come for its implementation across England and Wales.'
The Government’s own Family Mediation Taskforce recently recommended that divorce without blame be introduced. It is also one of Resolution's main proposals set out it its Family Law Manifesto. According to Resolution, removing blame from divorce will not make it more likely that people will separate. It will simply make it easier for people to manage their separation with as little conflict and stress as possible and reduce the likelihood that they will end up in court.

Writing for April Family Law, Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution said:

'Removing the need to allege fault on the part of one party would encourage parties to look forward rather than at what has happened in the past and would facilitate a constructive focus on future arrangements and responsibilities in the best interests of the children. Couples should be free, if they wish to do so, to achieve financial certainty much more quickly after the breakdown of a relationship. We are now lagging behind many of our European neighbours in not having a mutual consent option or a no fault approach that does not involve a substantial waiting period.'
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