Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Am Not a Voyeur

Looking through the news this morning I came across a story of sordid allegations in a celebrity divorce case. Such stories are, of course, commonplace in the media, especially the more sensationalist branches of that august profession. I was tempted to write a post about the story, but then realised that I just didn't want to know what Mr and Mrs X had been getting up to in their private lives - if it doesn't affect anyone else then it is their business, and their business alone.

The problem for divorce lawyers, however, is that we often do have to delve into the personal lives of our clients. Sometimes this is unavoidable, for example in many children disputes, but the primary reason is that we still have a fault-based divorce system. I've long since lost track of the number of times that I've had to apologise to clients who want to remain on good terms with their spouse that the only way they can get a divorce at this time is by alleging that the breakdown of the marriage was entirely due to the fault of their spouse. This is particularly sad when there are children involved - the law that should be protecting those children is actually jeopardising the good relationship between their parents. The whole idea of fault-based divorce is archaic and anachronistic - how often is a marriage breakdown entirely due to the fault of one party, and even if it is, does this really matter?

My complaint about fault-based divorce is, of course, nothing new. The last Conservative government tried to introduce a no-fault system with the Family Law Act 1996, but they made such a complete hash of it that the project was shelved indefinitely. Unfortunately, the whole idea is now considered such a political hot potato that it is unlikely that there will be the will for any government to revisit the idea in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the present system will continue to cause unnecessary misery for divorcing couples and their children, and force divorce lawyers to waste their clients' precious resources dealing with matters that are really irrelevant to the main issue of sorting out arrangements for the future.

2 comments:

  1. Dare I say it, but perhaps there is something to be learned from the system here in Scotland. According to figures released last month 92% of divorces were based on one of the two separation grounds, one year with consent or two years without consent.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sure there is something to learn. Those separation times are much more sensible than ours.

    ReplyDelete

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