A flawed Twitter poll still shows support for no-fault divorce

divorce

On Friday Martin Lewis, the founder of the Money Saving Expert website, ran a Twitter poll on the subject of no-fault divorce. It was not without its flaws (more of which in a moment), but it still I think indicated that the public are overwhelmingly in support of the introduction of a system of no-fault divorce (in all cases, not just after a period of separation) in this country.

The wording of the poll was as follows:

There were 12,851 votes, which I think makes the poll significant. Of course, it may be that only people from a non-representative cross-section of society saw, and therefore took part, in the poll, but I don’t really see any reason why this might be the case – surely, people from all walks of life want to save money, and therefore follow Mr Lewis?

I mentioned earlier that there were flaws in the poll. There may be others, but two immediately strike me. Firstly, the poll suggests that adultery and unreasonable behaviour are the only ‘grounds’ of divorce, omitting to mention two years’ separation and consent, and five years’ separation. This, of course, may simply be due to the Twitter character limit preventing Mr Lewis from setting everything out in full. The other flaw, I think, is that the poll tries to be two polls in one: one for those who have been through a divorce, and one for those who haven’t. However, I believe I can ‘fix’ that error, by separating the poll into two.

The result of the first part of the poll, for those who have been through a divorce, can (if my maths is correct) be expressed as 89 per cent in favour of no-fault divorce, and 11 per cent opposed to it. Similarly, the result of the second part of the poll, for those who have not been through a divorce, may also be expressed as 89 per cent in favour of no-fault divorce, and 11 per cent opposed to it. In other words, it makes no difference whether the voter had been through a divorce or not.

In short, roughly nine out of ten people who took part in the poll were in favour of no-fault divorce. Whatever the flaws in the poll, that is surely a very significant result.

I know there are still many who are opposed to no-fault divorce, some very strongly opposed, but it does seem to me that there is now an unstoppable tide of support for the idea. Certainly, the mood (I almost used the word zeitgeist) is very different from my first experiences of the argument back in the 1980s. Then, the main argument against no-fault divorce was that it would make divorce too easy and therefore devalue the institution of marriage. This view was held by many, in particular in positions of power, not least the church.

Now, however, I’m not sure that that argument carries nearly as much weight or support as it once did. Marriage can mean whatever the couple want it to mean. If they want it to be a sacred life-long contract, then it can still be that to them, irrespective of what the divorce laws say. In other words, the divorce laws need not devalue the institution of marriage.

At the same time, the public now seem much more aware of the benefits of no-fault divorce. Why should a divorce be unnecessarily acrimonious? And above all, why should those, like Tini Owens, be tied by the law into an unhappy marriage? How does that strengthen the institution of marriage? If anything, it weakens it.

Lastly, you might be asking what no-fault divorce has got to do with saving money. Well, I don’t know what was in Martin Lewis’s mind when he ran the poll, but saving money is most definitely one of the potential benefits of no-fault divorce. Spending money on contested divorce proceedings, for example, is an absurd and futile waste of money. After all, if a marriage is over then it is over, irrespective of what the law may say.

Photo by Mathew Wilson via Flickr

John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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