On 30 November, Philip Hunter and Pui Uro joined a 150 strong cohort of family law specialists, at Parliament to meet their local MPs, as part of Resolution’s continuing lobbying attempts to encourage the Government to allow no-fault divorce.
The law governing divorce is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and since it was assented, the way in which families now operate has changed significantly. Unless couples have been living apart for two years, couples must apportion some form of blame, e.g. adultery or unreasonable behaviour, to divorce. Philip Hunter and Pui Uro are of the view that this creates conflict and makes reaching a mutually acceptable agreement much more difficult, in addition to the potential impact that this conflict and confrontation can have on children of separating parents. Canada, Sweden, Scotland some American states provide parties to divorce based on a “no-fault” basis.
Resolution called on the Government to amend the law to reflect societal changes and promote the idea of a “no fault” divorce. This idea is supported by senior members of the judiciary, including Sir James Mumby, the current President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, together with the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale.
The general idea of resisting a “no-fault” divorce is based on statistics dating back to the 1960s, which appear to demonstrate an increase in the rate of divorce, which both sides of the debate agree is not what is sought, given the view that children not growing up in two-parent family households are more likely to experience issues relating to poverty and social problems.
Resolution counter-argues that much of the background statistics do not reflect current societal thinking, stating:
“There is consensus across international research studies that no-fault divorce has had little clear impact on propensity to divorce, though you may find short term blips in response to policy changes. That is exactly what happened in Scotland after the implementation of reforms in 2006 – within two years the divorce rate reverted to the pre-reform level and then continued on a downward trend, and with a reduction in the number of divorces based on fault.”
Philip Hunter stated, “In my experience, clients have reflected long and hard before beginning divorce proceedings. People divorce for many different reasons, but it is hard to imagine that they may not do so because of the nature of the divorce process itself. The costs associated with divorce, such as the recent rise in the court’s fee from £410 to £550, are far more likely to prevent somebody from starting divorce proceedings. It is not the divorce process that saves troubled marriages, it is the information and support available to my clients.”
Philip Hunter and Pui Uro met with local MP, Alistair Burt, to discuss Resolution’s proposed changes and will continue to encourage individuals, whether considering divorce or having concluded their divorce, to contact their local MP and highlight their experiences, with a view to changing this area of law to better reflect society’s requirements. Mr. Burt has since written to the Ministry of Justice with our proposed changes with a view to bringing about a better way for marriages to be dissolved.