Asking couples to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage in order to get a divorce is almost cruel, the new chair of family law group Resolution said today.
Nigel Shepherd used his first speech in the role to issue a rallying cry for family lawyers to continue to call for no fault divorce.
Speaking to 400 guests at Resolution’s annual conference in Gateshead, Mr Shepherd said “it’s wrong – and actually bordering on cruel – to say to couples: if you want to move on with your lives…. one of you has to blame the other.”
He pointed to polling by Resolution that found a quarter of all divorcing couples falsify blame on their petition in order to complete the separation. He said Resolution will continue to press ministers for change.
It is the latest in a growing number of calls from Resolution for reform to divorce law to allow for no fault divorce.
Earlier this year Resolution’s outgoing chair, Jo Edwards, wrote to David Cameron asking for a commitment towards no fault divorce to be made in the upcoming Queen’s Speech, which launches the next session of Parliament on May 18.
A Private Members’ Bill providing for no fault divorce, sponsored by Richard Bacon MP, is expected to be re-introduced after that date.
Mr Shepherd added: “The blame game needs to end, and it needs to end now. We will continue to make the case to Government, supported by charities, the judiciary and the many others who support no fault divorce.”
In a clear message to the Government, he told the conference that the current legal aid system is ‘a bloody disgrace’ and called for the government to carry out its promised review into the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act at the earliest opportunity.
Mr Shepherd, who was previously Chair of Resolution in 1995-97, also paid tribute to Resolution’s members and their commitment to reducing family conflict and helping parents to put their children first.
He said that he was “proud of the work our members do to protect the vulnerable and abused.”
Jo Edwards received special praise for the achievements of her two years in post. She had, said Mr Shepherd, taken Resolution from “strength to strength” and been a great ambassador for the organisation and for family justice.