No-fault divorce would punish the innocent and undermine the institution of marriage

Nov 17, 2017

I was disappointed to see The Times launch its campaign for family law reform today, the central tenant of which is the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce. Some snap thoughts follow, with more to come next week.

This is a dismal idea. There are times when it seems to me that to be in love with this country is akin to being married to an alcoholic. It is painful watching the determination to self-harm, the energy with which the establishment find and promote policies which will destroy that which they profess to wish to save.

Under the proposed change in the law either party to a marriage would be able to end it at any point without having to give a reason. A short statutory period would then elapse, presumably around six months given that the current no-fault limits of two and five years appear to be too much for campaigners to stomach, before the marriage would be forcibly terminated by the courts.

The ensuing scenario is a grim one. Imagine a person who has behaved with fidelity to their wedding vows and has every intention of continuing to do so. Under the Times’ proposals, despite no fault on their part and with no given reason, such a person would find their marriage terminated, their family split, their assets divided, and quite possibly themselves ejected from the family home by court order.

There would be no defence against this. It is no exaggeration to say that a marriage would now have less legal protection than is found in many tenancy agreements.

What is most exasperating is the insistence that this is being done to strengthen marriage and families. Such an argument ignores the 10,000 families a year who abandon divorce proceedings during the cool-off period which these campaigners would seek to truncate.

It also ignores common sense. You cannot strengthen an institution by stripping it of its legal protections and asking progressively less of its participants. Marriage is simply too important to be treated so lightly.