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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 August 2006, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Judge favours 'no-fault' divorces
Beverley and John Charman (pics from express.com and Financial Times)
Beverley Charman was awarded 48m by the High Court
A senior judge has called for an end to fault-based divorces to help prevent acrimonious break-ups.

Lord Justice Wall said he wants a new system that puts the needs of children and financial provision at the heart of the divorce process.

The Court of Appeal judge told the Independent that "quick and easy" divorces are undermining the institution of marriage.

His comments follow a series of high-profile divorce battles.

They include the case of Beverley Charman, who was awarded 48m out of her husband John's fortune, and that of Melissa Miller, whose husband Alan was ordered to pay her 5m.

Lord Justice Wall, who is one of Britain's foremost family law judges, heard the latter case in the Court of Appeal.

Blame game

Under the terms of England and Wales's divorce laws, couples have to blame each other if they want a quick divorce, usually granted within six months.

Alan and Melissa Miller
Alan Miller had disputed the 5m settlement for Melissa

Lord Justice Wall told the Independent: "I do believe strongly in the institution of marriage as the best way to bring up children and that's one of the reasons why I would like to end the quick and easy divorces based on the fault system.

"I think that it actually undermines marriage."

But he said the introduction of a new legal system for divorce would be difficult as people "don't like not being able to blame someone in a divorce".

Family law reformers welcomed Lord Justice Wall's comments.

"We are behind the principle of no-fault divorce because we would like to see an end to couples having to make allegations about each other's behaviour," said Jane McCulloch, the vice-chairman of family law reform group Resolution.

More divorces

There were just more than 310,000 weddings in the UK in 2004 - the latest year for which official figures were available - down from a peak of 480,000 in 1972.

But there were 167,000 divorces in 2004, the fourth year in a row that the number had increased.

The government scrapped plans to introduce no-fault divorces in 2001.

It said the system designed to replace them was unworkable.

Lord Justice Wall said he did not accept that explanation, although he acknowledged that the Law Commission's original proposals had been "mauled" by a series of amendments in Parliament.




SEE ALSO
5m divorce payout row continues
28 Nov 05 |  London

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