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The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Thousands each year face the prospect of divorce"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 19:00 GMT
'No-fault' divorce to be scrapped
Counselling
Information meetings were found to be unworkable
The government is to scrap plans to introduce "no-fault" divorce.

Ministers say pilot programmes have shown that the system put forward in 1996 legislation is unworkable and flawed.


Congratulations to the government for scrapping this totally unworkable part of the Act

Michael Napier, Law Society president
They are now set to ask MPs to repeal the law which was introduced under the previous Conservative government.

Under that law, couples would have been granted a divorce within one year and would not have to apportion blame.

The government's decision means couples will be forced to continue to cite adultery or other actions for the breakdown of their marriage.

Information meetings

The Family Law Act 1996 allowed for no-fault divorce provided couples had taken part in compulsory information meetings.

Lord Irvine
Lord Irvine said the law will be repealed
These meetings, set out in section II of the Act, were designed to either help couples to save their marriages or to end them with minimum distress and acrimony.

Six types of information meeting were tested in pilot schemes over a two-year period.

But researchers concluded that none was good enough to be implemented nationwide.

They added that the information meetings were not effective and tended to come too late in a marital breakdown inclining those who were uncertain about their marriage towards divorce.

They were judged too inflexible to provide people with information tailored to their personal needs and, in the great majority of cases, only the person petitioning for divorce attended the meeting in any case.

Legislation repealed

The Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine said the government would seek to have the legislation repealed as soon as possible.

"The Act's complexity is likely to cause a great deal of uncertainty over the divorce process which will be unhelpful for families at what is always a difficult and emotional time," he said.

"The government is committed to supporting marriage and to supporting families when relationships fail, especially when there are children involved.

"But this very comprehensive research, together with other recent valuable research in the field, has shown that Part II of the Family Law Act is not the best way of achieving those aims.

"The government is not therefore satisfied that it would be right to proceed with the implementation of Part II and proposes to ask parliament to repeal it once a suitable legislative opportunity occurs."

Lord Irvine's department said the government would build on the evidence provided by the research to consider how best to provide families experiencing relationship difficulties with the information and support they need.

Under the existing law, the closest thing to no-fault divorce is when a couple, by mutual consent, cite having lived apart for two years as evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage.

Law Society president Michael Napier welcomed the Lord Chancellor's announcement.

"Congratulations to the government for scrapping this totally unworkable part of the Act," said Mr Napier.

"Research showed it was not going to work for divorcing couples or their children and we're glad the Government waited for that research and took notice of it.

"It is disappointing that no-fault divorce will be lost in the process, but we will not stop pressing for its introduction."

Meanwhile, in a move designed to underline the government's support for families and marriage, Lord Irvine's department announced that would provide a total of 4m towards marriage and relationship support this year - an increase of 25% on last year.

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01 Dec 00 | Business
New pension rules for divorcees
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