Judge makes case for transforming divorce proceedings

Britain’s most senior woman judge has called for a major overhaul of the country’s divorce laws.

Baroness Hale of Richmond believes that taking the blame out of break-ups would be an important reform for family courts to consider.

Lady Hale had previously pushed for “no fault” divorces to be introduced in England and Wales during the 1990s and in 1996 the Family Law Act gained the Queen’s assent only for
the part introducing no fault divorce never to be implemented. It was quietly dropped- much to the disappointment of family lawyers – by Tony Blair’s Government in 2001.

Twenty years on and there is now thought to be wider support for the changes, which some believe would make separation a less acrimonious affair.

Lady Hale, who is deputy president of the Supreme Court, also believes couples should have to sort out arrangements for children and money before obtaining a divorce.

She told The Times: “We should make it take longer to get a divorce and encourage people to sort out what happens to the home, children, money before, rather than after, they get a divorce.”

Questioned on other changes she’d be keen to see introduced, she cited the need to provide greater legal protection for unmarried couples, believing that current laws are “unsatisfactory.”

She was also asked about the growing enthusiasm for pre-nuptial agreements and said she favoured the courts retaining the power to adjust the terms.

“I am not against prenuptial agreements as such but what I wish everyone would understand is that the purpose of a pre-nuptial agreement in most cases is to provide that somebody will get less than otherwise they would be entitled to.”