Reform ‘brutal’ divorce laws, urges high-profile lawyer

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Sep 14, 2017
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Ayesha Vardag has called for the introduction of "no fault" divorce

Jack Hill/The Times

The law on divorce is "brutal" and encourages couples to make acrimonious allegations of blame, a leading divorce lawyer has said. 
Ayesha Vardag said that the legal requirement for one spouse to cast blame on the other fuelled bitterness and resentment, and "sets the tone for a brutal, cruel parting”.

Under present laws couples are encouraged to cite fault if they want to divorce in under two years. However, waiting for two years is often not practicable and meant putting their lives on hold, Vardag told The Times. As such, she has called for the introduction of "no fault" divorce.
"There is something rotten at the heart of family law, this foundation of blame, someone has to be the fall guy for the end of the marriage – where in much of the rest of the world, the divorce is granted simply on the basis of irreconcilable differences," she said.
Vardag will launch a campaign for divorce law reform at a fringe session of the Conservative party conference next month, and has the backing of many other family lawyers. “The campaign aims to remove the legal need to prove that one person is specifically to blame for the breakdown of a marriage,” she said.

“Instead there should be a less traumatic and less costly way of dissolving marriages that have suffered irretrievable breakdown.”
She added: "It is not about making divorce easier. I would personally favour a 12-month cooling off period before a divorce could be finalised, as there are some marriages that can be saved.

There should be a less traumatic and less costly way of dissolving marriages

“But it is unreasonable that, as under the current law, people should have to wait up to three years, or possibly more than five years, to avail themselves of a no-fault divorce.”

Vardag, once dubbed the “diva of divorce”, has handled a series of "big money" headline cases, including the landmark decision on pre-nuptial agreement involving the German heiress Katrin Radmacher as well as the Pauline Chai case, which led to the Laura Ashley boss Khoo Kay Peng being ordered to pay £64 million. She also acted for Michelle Young in her lengthy divorce with the property tycoon Scot Young.
However, scrapping fault-based divorce would affect more than the ultra-wealthy – there are more than 100,000 run-of-the-mill divorces a year.
Resolution, the 4,000-strong association of family lawyers, favours reforming the divorce laws, as does the Marriage Foundation, a charity launched by the High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge, who has since retired from the bench to focus on his work for the organisation.

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