Senior Family Judge suggests divorce should become an administrative process

In a speech made on 29th April 2014 Munby said divorce proceedings should be split from the process of financial remedy so that the divorce itself would become an administrative process but the financial issues would remain subject to judicial supervision.

Sir James Munby, the President of the High Court’s Family Division, has called for radical streamlining of the matrimonial law. He suggests that uncontested divorce where no children are involved could be taken out of the hands of judges with couples simply required to register their separation with a “Registrar of births, deaths, marriages and divorce”. He asks, “Has the time not come to legislate to remove all concepts of fault as a basis for divorce and to leave irretrievable breakdown as the sole ground?”

Asked whether removing all traces of blame from divorce would mark a significant change in marriage, Munby said, “In practical terms it will make very little difference. For 30 years we have had divorce by consent. In reality many divorces go through by consent in the sense that the parties agree the grounds of unreasonable behaviour before the petition is issued.” He commented that defended divorces happen so infrequently that they are “invisible.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said, “We are committed to working with the judiciary to improve the family justice system so divorcing couples can achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves and their families, using the courts only where necessary. The government has no current plans to introduce “No-fault divorces”.

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