Government rejects latest calls to introduce no-fault divorce system

Published: 23rd February 2017

The Government have confirmed to the House of Lords that they have no plans to reform current divorce law to introduce a 'no-fault divorce' system in England and Wales, despite widespread calls from family lawyers and other organisations to do so.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson in the House of Lords, Lord Keen of Elie, answered a question in writing to Lord Pendry on 13th February 2017, saying: 'The government is committed to improving the family justice system so separating couples can achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves and their families. Whilst we have no current plans to change the existing law on divorce, we are considering what further reforms to the family justice system may be needed.'

Following this latest setback for the 'no-fault divorce' system, a recent You Gov survey published on 17th February 2017 highlighted that 69% of the survey respondents thought that 'people should be able to seek a divorce without having to show their spouse is at fault', with only 15% of people surveyed believing that assigning fault in divorce was necessary.

Nationwide family law organisation Resolution conducted their own survey, which found nine out of 10 family law practitioners were in favour of a 'no-fault divorce' system and believe that current divorce law needs to be modernised.

Resolution Chair Nigel Shephard expressed his delight in seeing Lord Pendry challenge the government on the 'no-fault divorce' issue, saying: 'This shows our lobbying is having an impact, and momentum is building – there is increased awareness among parliamentarians of this issue, and growing support for ending the blame game and helping separating couples to do so more amicably.'

Back in October 2016, the House of Commons published a briefing paper outlining the arguments for and against the introduction of a 'no-fault divorce' system and how it would impact the Family Law Act 1996. The paper also considered the views of Resolution, the Family Mediation Taskforce, MP Richard Bacon's original 'no-fault divorce' Bill and views from senior members of the judiciary.

Around this time, Nigel Shepherd issued a rallying cry to family law professionals to continue to support the call for 'no-fault' divorce, saying: 'It's wrong – and actually bordering on cruel – to say to couples: if you want to move on with your lives, one of you has to blame the other. The blame game needs to end, and it needs to end now. We will continue to make the case to government, supported by charities, the judiciary and the many others who support no-fault divorce.'

The concept of 'no-fault divorce' is designed to reduce the conflict between partners when they separate. In the current system, the need to assign blame can create problems that do not need to exist, resulting in more tension between parties which can add more expense and lead to longer divorce proceedings.

Despite the recent setback, the 'no-fault divorce' issue continues to gather support from many family law professionals and it is only a matter of time until the matter resurfaces in the House of Lords.

If you are thinking about separation or divorce then K J Smith Solicitors can help. As a member of the organisation Resolution, K J Smith Solicitors will strive to deliver a positive outcome without conflict and in the most amicable way possible.

For more information or to arrange a free 45-minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) 01483 370100 (Guildford) or 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield).

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