HL Deb 07 July 1831 vol 4 cc921-2
Lord Wynford

said, that he had observed with pain the great number of Divorce Bills presented to their Lordships; in scarcely any of which had there been even the show of opposition. Both the party accusing, and the party accused, seemed equally anxious for a dissolution of the marriage; and, in some cases, there were grounds for suspecting, that whilst the relation of husband and wife continued; and whilst it was indecent and immoral for the husband to make a proposal of marriage, or for the wife to accept such a proposal, in consequence of the facility with which Divorce Bills could be obtained, matrimonial engagements had been entered into by them, even before they had applied to their Lordships to dissolve the existing marriage. It must occur to every one, that if husbands and wives found, if they both wished to dissolve a marriage, and one would apply for a divorce, and the other would oppose no obstacle, that there was no difficulty in the way of obtaining what they desired, thus unsettling the minds of married persons, the great object for which marriage was instituted would be defeated, and the morals of the people corrupted. By a Standing Order of their Lordships, there must be laid on the Table, before the second reading of every Divorce Bill, the proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Court, together with the judgment, where there has been an action for criminal conversation, in such action. If both the parties were desirous of having a divorce, nothing would appear on the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Court, which could have the least tendency to show that a divorce ought not to be granted. The parties would keep out of the view of that Court everything that showed collusion, or any conduct that would prevent the party from obtaining relief. The judgment in the Court of Common Law gave their Lordships no information, except the amount of damages recovered against the adulterer. Sometimes, instances of collusion occurred between those who conducted the cause on the part of the husband, and the adulterer —the husband being kept in ignorance of such collusion, that he might be able to deny all knowledge of it, if he should be examined when he appeared at the bar. Generally, the adulterer denied the adultery, or proved some circumstances to produce an impression of consent on the part of the husband, or he proved, that the conduct of either husband or wife should lessen his damages sought to be recovered. By his defence, the adulterer brought before the Court many facts that showed the true character of the case, and of the party who came to ask for their Lordships' interference. A knowledge of these facts would enable them to sift the witnesses brought to the bar to prove the case in support of the Bill, and to call others, capable of proving all the circumstances connected with it. All these facts would appear on the notes of the Judge who tried the action for criminal conversation. He meant, therefore, to propose to their Lordships to make a Standing Order, to compel persons who applied for a Divorce Bill, to put upon the Table, before the second reading of such Bill, in all cases, the notes of the Judge who presided at the trial of any action in the case for criminal conversation.—Motion agreed to.

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