Chris Harris for The Times
Online divorce must be implemented as soon as possible and separated from money disputes between divorcing couples, England and Wales’ most senior family judge has said.
Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the High Court, said that the time had come for a “complete de-linking – separation – of divorce and money, so that they are dealt with under different processes”. Disputes over money would then be handled in specialist financial remedies courts, he suggested. The reforms would not require primary legislation but could all be achieved by changes to the rules on procedure and to forms, the judge added.
Although ideally it would be better to wait to see if the government was prepared to reform divorce law, for instance by introducing the concept of no-fault divorce, Sir James said there had been no commitment. “The lamentable history of procrastination suggests it would be unwise to assume speedy progress,” he said. Without clear decisions from the Government “we shall have to proceed with reform on the basis of the existing statutory regime”, he continued.
Sir James set out the case for moving ahead with online divorce in his regular newsletter, published yesterday. Among the “realities” that drove his conclusion that de-linking was necessary was that only a minority of divorce cases give rise to claims over money and involve judges, while divorce itself is largely administrative, he said. Another was that regional divorce centres, where divorces are now handled as a prelude to online divorce, are under “unnecessary and avoidable strain” pending the completely online system being introduced.