President of the High Court’s Family Division makes speech in favour of ‘no fault divorce’

Speaking at the annual conference of Resolution which took place at the Queens Hotel in Leeds on 24 March, Sir Nicholas Wall said he could “see no good arguments against no fault divorce” because society was moving away from the idea that permanent separation should be something to be ashamed of.
Sir Nicholas also stated in his speech that divorce was no longer judicial and has become more of an “administrative” process with the result that “demonstrating that you were the ‘innocent’ party was no longer important.”
He also said in his speech to family law solicitors in Leeds that current divorce legislation had “its roots in history,” with echoes back to a time when divorce was “a matter of social status” adding: “All that, I think, has gone. Defended divorces are now effectively unheard of.”
Originally proposed as part of the Family Law Act in 1996, the idea of a ‘no fault divorce’ was criticised by opponents who felt it would make it too easy for couples to go their separate ways. Sir Nicholas said: “As a student, of course, I grew up with the three Cs: connivance, collusion and condonation. All those have gone. It seems to me, therefore, that the time for no fault divorce has also come.”
During his speech, Sir Nicholas also talked about cuts to the legal aid system, something that he feels concerned could make family disputes and divorces take longer and become more costly to resolve with couples increasingly representing themselves in court. Sir Nicholas felt the changes to legal aid will “undoubtedly” result in a “substantial increase in litigants in person” which would make cases more difficult with complainants failing to understand court processes.
“We are undoubtedly going to see a substantial increase in litigants in person. Some are very good. But as a rule of thumb, there is no doubt that they slow us down. Few, for example, can cross-examine or understand the process of cross examination.”
Having already publicly criticised the proposed cuts to legal aid, he said that many litigants in person, whose cases go through the family courts will be the most “difficult and intransigent cases.”
Sir Nicholas said: “Cases will take longer and become more difficult. Although good lawyers cost money, they also save it” adding that “forthcoming reductions and changes in legal aid will have the most serious consequences.”

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