‘Conservatives’ Ignore Public, Introduce Quickie, No-Fault Divorce

A view of a hotel sign in Reno, Nevada, famous for speedy divorces. Circa 1940.(Photo by Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Express/Hulton Archive/Getty

The UK’s Conservative government will introduce no-fault divorce laws and abolish a spouse’s ability to contest a divorce, the justice minister has announced, despite widespread public opposition to the plans.

David Gauke said that legislation to introduce divorce on demand, with “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage left as the only grounds for a split, will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

No-fault divorces — often regarded as a driver behind sky-high divorce rates in the U.S., where their introduction led to a six-fold increase in break-ups in just two years — are needed in Britain in order to end  a “blame game” that causes “damage” to children whose parents are going through a divorce, according to the justice secretary.

A press release from the ministry this week alleged that the decision to ditch the UK’s current, “outdated” legislation came after a public consultation found that “family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform”.

In fact, the government’s own document showed that 80 per cent of people who responded to the consultation said they opposed plans to replace the current fault-based system.

But this was largely dismissed by the Ministry of Justice as the result of “campaigns by groups who objected to the government’s proposals” which “encouraged their supporters through online guides” to take part in the consultation.

The government claimed that up until a “huge increase in the response rate”, which it said “coincided” with these campaigns, support for introducing no-fault divorce “was running at 70 per cent”; however, polls on the subject such as one carried out last year by pro-reform law firm Slater Gordon showed 72 per cent of more than 1,000 divorced UK couples were opposed to the plans.

Announcing the changes, Gauke claimed that the Conservatives would “always uphold the institution of marriage”, but said “it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”

“So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good,” he said, adding that “hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances”.

News of the legislation came just after a report warned Britain was “fast becoming a world leader” in the proportion of children growing up in broken homes and revealed the “devastating impacts” of family breakdown, with children whose parents split up suffering from double the rate of mental illness, poverty, or getting into trouble with law enforcement compared to peers who were still living with both parents.

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