Divorce should be blameless, says top family judge

It is no longer necessary to demonstrate that you were the innocent party, says Sir Nicholas Wall

LAST UPDATED AT 15:28 ON Tue 27 Mar 2012

DIVORCE courts should adopt a "no fault" clause to explain the breakdown of a marriage, says Britain's leading family court judge.

Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the High Court's family division, said he thought the current practice of placing blame with a partner was outdated and unnecessary, reports The Guardian.
 
"At the moment, we have a system... which is, in fact, administrative, but which masquerades as judicial," he said during a weekend family law conference in Leeds.

Sir Nicholas described current divorce law as "a matter of social status" derived from 19th century values, when "it mattered whether you were divorced or not, and if you were, it was important to demonstrate that you were the 'innocent' party.
 
"I am a strong believer in marriage but I see no good arguments against 'no fault' divorce," he said.

Sir Nicholas's argument was given added weight yesterday by another senior judge, Lord Justice Thorpe, overseeing an appeal over a divorce case in which a husband had cited "trivial" arguments over a washing machine and a television aerial as grounds for divorce.

Lord Justice Thorpe said he felt introducing "no fault" divorce would end "painful investigations" to establish blame, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The judges' views were criticised by the Daily Mail, whose headline reads: "Another blow to marriage as top judges demand no-fault divorce and say current laws are vastly outdated."

The paper reports that Tory MP Julian Brazier thinks "no fault" will hamper child custody rulings. He said: "We already have no-fault divorce in all but name. The real issue is whether we need to reintroduce fault for the determination of child custody and division of resources."

In the US, all states operate a "no fault" divorce clause. When New York became the final state to pass the law in August 2010, domestic press mainly welcomed the change, with Bloomberg reporting, "Law ends need to lie".

However, the state's first "no fault" divorce wasn't granted until January 2012. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.