Lawyers Give Backing To ‘Refreshing’ No Fault Divorce Calls

Resolution Conference Puts Family Law Issue Into The Spotlight


Family law experts at Irwin Mitchell who presented at the National Resolution Conference in Leeds this weekend have given their backing to calls which have emerged from the event for the introduction of no fault divorce.

In his keynote address to more than 350 attendees, President of the High Court’s Family Division Sir Nicholas Wall said that there are “no arguments” against the introduction of such  a form of separation, which would mean that neither party involved would need to blame the other over the end of their marriage.

He added at the annual conference that the “roots” of the issue are probably historically tied to the issue of divorce as “a matter of social status” and allowing people to demonstrate they are the innocent party – something that is no longer deemed necessary in the 21st century.

Alison Hawes, Partner and the regional head of Irwin Mitchell’s family law team in Bristol, was at the sell-out event with other specialists from the national law firm.

Partner and London head John Nicholson was one of a panel of eminent commentators discussing changes in family law decision making, while National head Martin Loxley presented a training update on recent changes in the law to delegates.

Commenting on the event, Alison said: “The National Resolution Conference is always a topical place for trends and cutting edge topics that affect families and couples up and down the country in the arena of specialist family law.

“But one of the most refreshing presentations was the address by Sir Nicholas Wall and his opinion, clearly and succinctly expressed, that the time for ‘no fault divorce’ has come.

“Most couples assume when their marriage breaks down that they can obtain a divorce relatively painlessly, on the basis of ‘irreconcilable differences’ or simply that the marriage has broken down.

“More often than not, couples are distressed and shocked to learn that the person who starts the divorce process is going to have to allege a fault against the other person.  Inevitably, however sensitively handled by specialist family lawyers, a discussion about who is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage increases acrimony, which in turn often leads to raising stress levels and increasing costs for all involved.

“Members of Resolution have been lobbying the Government for many years to consider introducing legislation that was drafted some time ago and would mean there was no need for couples to blame each other, or come up with reasons why a divorce should be granted by the court.  The court appeared to acknowledge that divorce is an administrative process, whilst retaining complex aspects of outdated judicial rules.”

Alison added: “Most couples who come to us at Irwin Mitchell have already made the decision that their marriage is over.  The last thing they want is to have an initial legal tussle about the basis for that. 

“People generally just want to get on and have practical support and advice about how to make the best arrangements for their children, and how to make the money go round. 

“A change to no fault divorce would make the process quicker, which would therefore make it cheaper and would also appear to chime with what most couples want and expect in 2012. We hope the Government is able to take a look at this area as soon as possible.”