No-fault divorce: Current laws are relic of a bygone age

Jane Robey
Commenting on recent reports surrounding the possible introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, the CEO of National Family Mediation (NFM), Jane Robey, said:

“Our country’s divorce laws are a relic of a bygone age. The need for reform has been clear to see for decades.

“The differences that evolve between people in a relationship are sometimes irreconcilable. So it is a fact of life that couples separate. Recognising and accepting this does not undermine the institution of marriage.

“Rather it enables us to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to ensuring that in the fall-out from the decision to divorce, everyone in the family has the best possible chance of moving quickly on to the next phase of their lives.

“Critics of ‘no-fault’ divorce point out that there are no winners when a couple who have children divorce. That is true, but this is a question about how deep the defeat is felt.

“Divorcing is amongst the most stressful of experiences anyone can go through, shattering the lives of those involved. Nobody takes the decision to divorce lightly.

“For those whose relationship is no longer sustainable, the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce would remove some of the obstacles that currently make the experience emotionally exhausting.

“Crucially, the introduction of a statutory cooling-off period once the decision to divorce has been taken would help ensure the couple sort out what happens to children, property and finance before they get a divorce, rather than fighting about it afterwards.

“Family mediation could play a pivotal role at this stage because unlike a court, a mediator doesn't look to create winners and losers, and it puts the needs of all members of the family at the centre of decision-making.

“It’s also worth noting that some people who come to mediation decide to then try again with their relationship, so a cooling-off period could in fact lead to the restoration of breaking relationships in some cases.”

But she cautioned against any attempts by the legal profession to gain from such a ‘cooling-off’ period:

“Safeguards would of course be needed to ensure this period was used purely to positively shape the futures of all those involved in the break-up, especially the children, rather than becoming an opportunity for lawyers to move in and extract more business over a longer period of time,” she said.

The comments follow an interview given to The Times by NFM’s President, Britain’s most senior female judge, Baroness Brenda Hale.