A leading divorce lawyer has taken her campaign for no-fault divorce direct to Conservative Party members.
Ayesha Vardag, founder of London firm Vardags, implored delegates at the party conference to lobby their MPs and bring out a change in the law.
But the scale of her task was made clear when it emerged that more than two-thirds of Conservative councillors polled by ComRes favour the status quo. A straw poll of audience members at Tuesday’s fringe event found them split down the middle.
Vardag said she was motivated to launch the Campaign for Family Law Reform after seeing progress in parliament stall while clients continue to be corralled into accusations they did not want to make.
‘Couples need to go through the process of stating, on the record, something critical about the other individual unless they are able to wait for two years of separation,’ she said. ‘The process of finding fault is antiquated and sets a conflictual path for the divorce from the outset. Most importantly, finding fault doesn’t help save marriages.’
Richard Bacon MP, who spearheaded the No-Fault Divorce Bill through to its first reading in the commons in 2015, is ready to revive legislation and ask MPs to decide whether they want change.
Bacon said that the current position goes against government thinking that disputes should be taken away from the court and towards mediation and alternative dispute resolution. ‘There should be a less traumatic and less costly way of dissolving marriages that have suffered irretrievable breakdown,’ he added.
He insisted the campaign was not about making divorce easier, and he proposed a 12-month ‘cooling off’ period before a divorce could be finalised.
Greater availability of no-fault divorce – it is available to both consenting parties after two years and where one party consents after five years – has been supported by family law group Resolution, which sent a delegation to lobby MPs last year.
Although often in the minority on the panel of the fringe event, Thomas Pascoe, from the Coalition for Marriage, appealed directly to Conservative members to follow their natural inclination to spike such a proposal.
‘Who do you want to be as a party? Do you want to stand for the few and the irresponsible and put convenience before community? There is an alternative which is genuine moral Conservatism.’