Experts warn that ‘Quickie Divorce’ will make ending married life too easy

James Munby, a respected senior judge in the family courts, has called for the process of ‘divorce by mutual consent’ to take place outside of the courtroom. Many divorcees will echo Mr Munby’s pleas for reform, understanding that the current legal mechanism which surrounds divorce can cause a lot of unnecessary pain.

Divorce reforms would mean that you could nullify a marriage simply through a registrar – in a similar manner to births and deaths.

The debate about divorce will always be steeped in morality; partly because of its religious foundations, and also due to the fact that for all intents and purposes, marriage is a legal contract.

Currently, you can only apply for a divorce after at least a year of marriage. A quickie divorce can be obtained within 6 months, but only if one partner has been guilty of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Apportioning blame is a major part of the current system. When you apply for a Decree Nisi you must cite either: Desertion, Unreasonable Behaviour, Adultery, Two Year Separation, or a Five Year Separation. Once the Decree Nisi has been granted, a Decree Absolute is made.Ann Widdecombe: you wouldn't want to go drinking with her.

Outspoken Catholic and former Tory, Anne Widdicombe, suggests that this kind of legalistic due process is necessary to prevent the degradation of marriage as an institution:

“Divorce is already too easy — it makes a nonsense of marriage. I am not saying, go back to the old days when divorce involved tricks and stratagems, but at least it should be something people have to think about and take a great deal of trouble over… It should not be like buying sweets over the counter, or discarding an old carrier bag.”

Very few people take divorce lightly, and the vast majority of couples recognise the need to struggle against adversity from time-to-time. Anne Widdicombe’s comments may seem like a gross over-simplification to these people; others will point to evidence that the growth of divorce in a world of far fewer marriages may justify her statement.

Head of family law at Leeds family law firm Jordans Solicitors, Sukhbeer Shergill, said; “Making the divorce process easier is really only part of the equation. The vast sukhbeer_shergill_220majority of problems occur when dealing with the disentanglement of joint lives; dealing with Children, possessions, property and in some cases the custody of the family pet or who gets the ironing board and BBQ set. Even if the divorce process is made simpler, expert advice will often still be needed when dealing with finances and children.”

Divorce rose steadily after WW2, as the practice became gradually less stigmatised. After the Divorce Act was introduced in 1971, there was another spike in divorce rates, which would seem to suggest that reform does promote divorce, but whether this is a bad thing is up for debate. According to ONS figures, over 40% of modern marriages will end in divorce.

As much as calls for reform may seem progressive, many divorces need to be mediated via a thorough legal process due to the fact that children are involved. Reform can’t leave the door open for one bullying partner to overpower their spouse and claim all the rights to kids and finances.

James Munby has certainly opened the door to debate, and we do indeed need to question many aspects of current divorce law. Mr Munby also mooted concerns about the undeniable separation rights for cohabitees with regards shared finances, and the law’s unnecessary desire to rigidly apportion blame in every divorce case.