Reported in the News Letter on March 21, 1956: Royal Commission proposes three new grounds for divorce

editorial image

The report of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce in Britain, published yesterday, puts forward three new grounds for divorce.

The Commission, after spending four-and-a-half years gathering evidence on the breakdown of marriage, states: “Unless the tendency to resort too readily and too lightly to divorce is checked there is real danger that the conception of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman may be abandoned.”

The report runs to 300,000 words, and contains 149 recommendations for England and Wales and 81 for Scotland.

The report contains no discussions on the “religious aspect of marriage and divorce”. They have not been overlooked, but the Commission state: “We have, however, conceived it to be our duty to examine the problems before us from the point of view of the State, which has to legislate for all its citizens, whatever their religious beliefs may be.”

The three new grounds for divorce are:

• Wilful refusal by a spouse to consummate the marriage (instead of being a ground of nullity);

• Acceptance by a wife of artificial insemination by a donor without her husband’s consent;

• The fact that a spouse is a mental defective who has been continuously detained for five years and whose recovery from violent or dangerous propensities is improbable.

The report will be studied by the Northern Ireland Government. The law on divorce here is generally on the same lines as in Britain, and it is unlikely that any changes will be considered until the Government in Britain has announced its decision.