Final report on research into fault-based divorce published
Back in March we reported on a growing consensus amongst professionals involved in the breakdown of family relationships that couples who wish to divorce should be able to do so without having to place blame. An interim findings report was published on research being conducted into fault-based divorce and whether this should still be a requirement in modern day England. Professor Liz Trinder of University of Exeter led a study entitled Finding Fault?, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The study represents the first major research on divorce law since the 1980s and includes a national opinion survey on divorce law, interviews with people going through divorce and analysis of court files.
Now the full report has been published and this may well prove to be a landmark report. The study used a mixed methods approach, drawing on interviews with people going through divorce, focus groups with lawyers, observation of the court scrutiny process and analysis of court files, coupled with a national opinion poll and comparative legal analysis. The research demonstrates that the majority of divorces issued are based on ‘fault’ i.e. blaming one spouse for the marriage breakdown. However, these types of petitions are not necessarily accurate records of who or what caused the breakdown of the marriage.
The report states that the current fault-based divorce law in England and Wales increases conflict and suffering for separating couples and their children, encourages dishonesty, and undermines the aims of the family justice system. It highlights that divorce law in England and Wales is out of step with Scotland, most other countries in Europe, and North America. Reform of the divorce law in England and Wales is long overdue and having a single system of notification of intent to divorce introduced into law would be clearer, more honest and neutral between petitioner and respondent.
The summary and full reports can be found here.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.