06th May 2014

Could applying to court for a divorce be a thing of the past?

– Leading Judge suggests Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages could approve divorces

A childless couple’s application for a divorce could, in the near future, be no more than an administrative task carried out by a Registrar of births deaths and marriages.

That is the suggestion of the President of the Family Division – essentially the top divorce judge in the country – Sir James Munby.

He believes that a couple should be entitled to consent to their divorce without the need for judicial consideration.

Legal commentators, including Joshua Rozenberg, have raised concerns that such a move could leave vulnerable partners in a precarious position; Could a domineering spouse influence their partner to “sign off” divorce forms and perhaps even financial settlements even though it might not be in their best interests to do so?

Unfortunately the question was stonewalled in a recent press conference;

“Well, I’m not sure the divorce process, as a process, gives either party, whether the weaker or the stronger, any leverage in the financial disputes. Divorce is at present merely a pre-requisite to the court embarking upon the resolution of any financial disputes and that would remain unchanged whether the process of divorce was one conducted by one state bureaucrat, a district judge, or by another state bureaucrat, the registrar of births, deaths, marriages and it might be divorces”

The resolution of disputed financial matters would still be decided by a court – or otherwise settled through mediation, collaborative law or arbitration.

Finally the press conference once again underlines the goverment’s and the judiciary’s firm belief that couples will be well served by attending mediation as a means of resolving differences. Sir James Munby stated that;

“Once the message gets over that mediation is available; once the message gets over that mediation is mediation, it’s not the things that people think it is; it’s not, for example, conciliation; once the message gets over that it works; once the message gets over that it takes less time to arrive at a decision as a result of going to mediation than going to court; once the message gets over that you can, by mediation, sometimes achieve a solution, a tailor-made crafted solution which better meets the needs of you and your children than the court can; once we get to that point there’ll be a general enthusiasm to take up mediation and one hopes that once we get to that point, the need for compulsion will become less important than it is at present. The problem is that we have not yet – when I say “we,” the system as a whole – has not yet sold to the general public; has not yet sold to those who potentially could benefit from it; what mediation is; the availability of mediation; how they go about getting it and the advantages of mediation”

How can we help you?

There is a bewildering amount of change within family and divorce law at the moment.  

Family Law in Partnership are a leading firm of divorce lawyers, family mediators and counsellors in London.  If you would like help to move forwards then contact us now with any questions you might have.  You can email us, confidentially, at hello@FLiP.co.uk or telephone us and ask to speak to one of our solicitors on 020 7420 5000.