On 12 December 2014, Baroness Hale, the UK’s most senior female judge and Deputy President of the Supreme Court, proposed a new system of ‘no fault’ divorce in the UK. Baroness Hale anticipates this change would reduce costs and the bitterness associated with a marital breakup.

Currently in the UK, there are five grounds for divorce. Adultery and unreasonable behaviour come with no timing requirement. However the other three require waiting two or five years until the couple is officially divorced.  Therefore, in the absence of adultery, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is the most commonly cited ground.

Introducing ‘no fault’ divorce would mean no specific reason for divorce would have to be cited, but that the couple can declare their marriage over nonetheless. Lady Hale stated in the Evening Standard on 12 December 2014, “you would make a declaration that your marriage had irretrievably broken down and if you were still of that view a year later, then you get your divorce. That’s that“. During the one year period, the couple will have the chance to make sure divorce is the right option and also be able to try and agree amicably on arrangements for any children and discussions on the division of property.

Crucially, the introduction of a ‘no fault’ ground would ensure that, unlike under ‘unreasonable behaviour’, one would not have to “produce a list of the other person’s failings” which inevitably exacerbates bitterness and resentment at the outset of the process.

In the interview, Lady Hale also stated her view on prenuptial agreements and stuck by her decision from Radmacher v Granatino in 2010 in which she was the only judge out of the nine-judge panel to oppose enforcing the prenuptial agreement which was the subject matter of the case. Currently in the UK, agreements of this type are not automatically binding. The Law Commission is proposing to change this, but Lady Hale disagrees stating that “the purpose of pre-martial agreements is almost always to give somebody less than they would otherwise be entitled to“, and it is difficult at the outset of a marriage to ‘foresee’ the future and therefore what one might be entitled to.

Baroness Hale also touched on inequality in the law with regards to “place of women in the law”, and those from less advantaged backgrounds. She stated that the possibility of opening up a route into the legal profession, without the requirement for a degree, is “quite interesting“.