Examination of Witnesses

Part of Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:28 am on 2nd July 2019.

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David Hodson:

I can add to that as a part-time judge at the central London family court. Until two or three years ago, when we had divorce centres, part-time judges had to do four or five of these special procedures every time we sat. It took a matter of moments. We would give careful consideration to the document that had been drawn up by the legal adviser as to whether there were any procedural errors. We would look at the unreasonable behaviour allegations, but I find it difficult to remember in recent years—we have softened as the years have gone by—anything having been sent back. Sometimes it is so minuscule, but if it is undefended, it will go through.

The 1996 legislation had a knock-on effect. If Parliament decided in 1996 that no-fault divorce was appropriate, though Parliament subsequently did not bring it into force, should judges be turning around and saying no? Owens was a distinctive case. It was a defended case, whereas if it is undefended, as Nigel said, it will go through. That makes it a crying pity that people have got to go through that process in the first place.