Baroness Hale: no fault divorce would strengthen responsibility

Baroness Hale

No fault divorce would increase a general sense of family responsibility the President of the Supreme Court has claimed.

Speaking over the weekend at the annual conference of Resolution, Baroness Hale of Richmond gave her stamp of approval to the family law organisation’s ongoing campaign to reform Britain’s ageing divorce laws, saying:

“It may seem paradoxical to suggest that no-fault divorce is aimed at strengthening responsibility, but I believe that it is. The contents of the [divorce] petition can trigger or exacerbate family conflict entirely unnecessarily. Respondents are encouraged by their lawyers to ‘suck it up’ even though the allegations are unfair. There is no evidence at all that having to give a reason for the breakdown makes people think twice.”

The 73 year-old legal veteran compared the citation of adultery or other “faults” as grounds for divorce in England – in 56 per cent of divorce hearings – with Scotland, where just six per cent of divorce applications cite fault, under a different legal system.

The Yorkshire born Justice also expressed her support for the introduction of property rights for cohabitants as well as civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. The latter will be topic of a Supreme Court hearing on 14 May: R (on the application of Steinfeld and another) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Lady Hale was not, however, in favour of the automatically time-limited maintenance awards given in Scotland, saying she believed indefinite payments was sometimes fair.

She recalled working as a part of a team at the Law Commission which called for reform of English  divorce law as long ago as 1990, saying many of the proposals then made were still relevant today. The President stressed, however, that the impetus for change must come from government.

“It is not the job of the courts to legislate. Only parliament can do that. Our job is to interpret law that parliament has given us.”

Lady Hale image credit: University of Salford Press Office.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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2 comments

spinner - April 25, 2018 at 12:06pm

So more rules including forced marriage to make relationships with women more toxic for men, when these new rules come in what exactly does she really think will happen, men will just role over and say that’s all fine or will it just increase the pace of men opting out the societal structures that are there to try to bind them in to stop them being a general and often violent pain in the arse for the rest of society. If the marriage rate is anything to go by I would say the latter.

JamesB - April 26, 2018 at 1:52pm

What exacerbates the problem is the 1973 MCA as a whole being unfair, rather than this part of it in particular.

Sort this out by all means, but as the previous comment suggests and I agree with, you are missing the point which it is a raw deal for many and unfortunately being increasingly avoided because of that. The answer is in inexpensive prenups or going back to the 1950s. Perhaps I like Ike after all. Faced with him or her (Baroness Hale) perhaps I prefer his way of doing things.

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