Britain’s most senior female Judge, Baroness Hale, has said that she wants to see the bitterness taken out of most divorces so that one person does not need to be held at fault in order to obtain a divorce. Divorcing couples currently have to cite one of five reasons; adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion for two years or more; two years’ separation with consent; or five years without consent.
Therefore, those who want to divorce without waiting for at least two years have to cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour is by far the most widely used and critics argue that this encourages recriminations.
Baroness Hale, who is deputy president of the Supreme Court, also wants couples to be made to sort out arrangements for children and money before obtaining a divorce. She told The Times “We should make it take longer to get a divorce and encourage people to sort out what happens to the home, children, money before, rather than after, they get a divorce. Couples would have a one year ‘cooling off period’ after declaring that their marriage had permanently broken down in order for them to sort out the arrangements.”
The proposals are supported by Resolution, a group of family law professionals. 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.”