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"What if the ‘Respondent’ responds to the Petitioner’s Statement that as far as he/she is concerned the marriage has not irretrievable broken down – has there to be a hearing to decide whether or not that is the case?"

If I understand it right, No. the Respondent will not even be invited say I agree or I don't agree.

"They have tried to bring in ‘no-fault’ divorce before and what a disaster that was!"

When was it tried? If you mean in the mid-nineties that was never brought into force.

It is no use equating marriage to other contracts - there is no other contract which cannot be entered into without public formalities and fees to the State and only between natural persons and even then only to one at a time.

And it is no use forcing people to stay married. Even the present law only allows that for a maximum of five years; since the introduction of pension sharing the exception for "grave financial hardship" is obsolete and there is only one reported case where "grave other hardship" succeeded. The sooner the law is changed the better; and the six month period should run from when the papers reach the court, not when they are actioned there.

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