Leading family lawyers and a campaign body are urging the British Government to reform current divorce legislation in order to protect the long-term interests of children of separating couples.
Resolution, a campaign organisation that represents 6,500 family justice professionals, argues blame needs to be removed from the divorce process. They state that the current fault-based system leads to conflict and confrontation, which is particularly harmful for children.
Currently, in order to obtain a divorce in England and Wales, couples are required to live apart for at least two years; otherwise one partner must blame the other by alleging adultery or what is commonly referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour.’
Opponents of a move towards a no-fault divorce system claim that removing blame will undermine the value of marriage, and could lead to an increase in the number of divorces. However, figures from Scotland, where no-fault divorce was made possible in 2006, suggests no long-term increase in divorce rates since reforms were introduced.
Therefore, the UK Government recently announced a consultation on reforming the current divorce law, with the Justice Secretary David Gauke MP saying that "we think the ‘blame game’ that currently exists helps no one. It creates unnecessary antagonism and anxiety at an already trying time for couples and in particular where there are children.”
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer MP added that “the current system of forcing spouses to attribute blame for a divorce leads only to increased conflict and unnecessary confrontation."
A YouGov poll that was commissioned by Resolution found that 79% of the population agree that conflict from divorce or separation can affect negatively children’s mental health, a figure rising to 87% among those whose own parents divorced during childhood.
77% of those surveyed also said that conflict could affect a child’s academic performance and a further two-thirds felt social interactions and the ability to form healthy romantic relationships were also jeopardised by an acrimonious separation.
Nigel Shepherd, a former National Chair of Resolution and a campaigner for no-fault divorce, said that "for more than 25 years we’ve been making the case that we need to remove blame from the divorce process."
He added that family lawyers across the country back reform. In fact, Shepherd said "we know from our correspondence with MPs and Peers of all parties, that there is little – if any – opposition in Parliament."
The Government’s consultation on reforming the legal requirements for divorce is open until 10 December. Responses can be submitted at via THIS link.