Killed off at Last,reforms That Pushed More Couples into Divorce

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

THE disastrous no-fault divorce reforms only encouraged couples to break up, the Government finally admitted yesterday.

It said that, far from working to save relationships, the system meant to usher in divorce without blame in reality pushed wavering husbands and wives towards the final split.

The admission came as Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine at last killed off Part Two of the Family Law Act, which would have allowed a husband or wife to ditch their spouse in 12 months without ever having to bear blame or answer for their behaviour.

The decision is a vindication of the Daily Mail's campaign against the law on the grounds that it would bring a boom in easy divorce.

Opponents of the law brought in nearly five years ago by John Major's Tory government, and enthusiastically backed by Labour, insisted no-fault divorce would increase break-ups rather than help families.

Yesterday Lord Irvine finally acknowledged that the opponents of the system were right and the law would be repealed.

The Lord Chancellor's Department

said trials of the key parts of the no-fault system had shown that 'information meetings' had not only failed to do their intended job of saving marriages but had actively fostered divorce.

'Meetings were not effective in helping 'You can go to jail' most people to save their marriages, as they came too late,' a statement said. 'The evidence showed that the meeting tended to incline those who were uncertain about their marriage towards divorce.

'In addition, in the great majority of cases, only the person petitioning for divorce attended the meeting.

'Marriage counselling, conciliatory divorce and mediation depend for their success arguments of the bishops who insisted was rational and right.

In December 1995 the new Family Law on the willing involvement of both parties.' Lord Irvine also said the Act was 'too complicated' and would bring delay and uncertainty to the divorce process.

The no-fault reforms would not achieve their aims of saving 'savable' marriages and bringing broken marriages to an end with the minimum distress to the couple and their children.

The findings demolish the claims made by supporters of the Act - who included politicians of all parties, most lawyers, the majority of professional relationship experts and bishops of both the Church of England and Roman Catholic churches - that it would benefit couples and families.

The then Tory Lord Chancellor who introduced it, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, insisted the reforms would save marriages, help children by taking the bitterness out of divorce, and save money for the taxpayer.

All those claims have now been shown to be wrong.

One longstanding opponent of the no-fault system, former Tory leader in the Lords Baroness Young, said: 'It was always going to encourage divorce. …