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No fault divorces ‘should be standard’ says senior family law judge

‘No fault’ divorces should become the standard means for couples to separate rather than proving that one side is responsible for the breakdown, according to the most senior family law judge in England and Wales.

Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the high court’s family division, said the time for allocating blame for the failure of a marriage, as encouraged by an adversarial court system, had now passed.

There are ‘no good arguments against no-fault divorce’ in which couples could be granted a quick legal separation without blame, he said in a speech in Leeds to the annual conference of Resolution, the organisation which represents family lawyers.

Society has moved away from viewing divorce as shameful, removing the need for one partner to be deemed ‘innocent’ to keep their social status, he said. ‘I am a strong believer in marriage. But I see no good arguments against no-fault divorce.’

Sir Nicholas said it was unfortunate that the family justice system had been grafted on to an adversarial common law structure: ‘thus, however inquisitorial we try to be, there are some issues of fact, particularly in public law, which have to be decided adversarially.’