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A quarter of fault-based divorces are deliberately misleading the courts, say Resolution

Published: 3 November 2015

National family law organisation Resolution have called for an end to the current fault-based divorce system in England and Wales, as they say that over a quarter of fault-based divorces are based on false allegations of fault in order to make securing a divorce easier.

A recent study, published earlier this year by YouGov, highlighted that 52% of divorces were based on fault and that some 27% of couples who asserted blame admitted the allegation of fault was actually false. This could account for almost 20,000 divorce petitions, based on the last official statistics recorded in 2012 of 72,000 divorces involving allegations or adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Resolution have also backed a recent Bill which was subject of discussion recently in the House of Commons and brought by Conservative MP for South Norfolk Richard Bacon, which would allow separating couples to divorce without the need of blame on either side. Mr Bacon believes that separating couples are forced to assign blame as the law requires them to submit specific evidence as to why their marriage has broken down.

Mr Bacon said, "In Practice this means that even couples who do not want to apportion blame may be pushed by the law along a path they do not wish to take. A simple signed declaration by each party to a divorce that the marriage had broken down irretrievable should be sufficient."

He has also suggested that any couple wanting to get divorced should be subject to a 12 month 'cooling off' period to give the couple time to reflect on their differences and to try and save their marriage. 

Mr Bacon added, "It should also be easier to access counselling and arguably it should even be compulsory.  But where marriages are not saveable, and sadly this does happen, the law should not require couples to throw mud at each other. The time has come to introduce the option of divorce without blame."

The Chair of Resolution, Jo Edwards, backed Mr Bacon's motion and stated that she felt fault-based divorce was an outdated concept, in need of urgent reform. "It's not about making divorce easier," she explains. "It's about making it easier for people to resolve their issues on separation and move on with their lives after divorce. As our research findings show, the current system is causing couples to make false allegations in court in order to have their divorce finalised within a reasonable time. This charade needs to be ended."

"Imagine sharing a home with your former partner for two years, simply because you need to wait for a divorce to be finalised in order to become financially independent; or not being able to seek financial orders from the court in the meantime."

Resolution have been vocal campaigners for removal of the fault-based divorce system ever since it was proposed in the Family Law Act 1996, despite never being put into practice. Jo Edwards said that she wasn't surprised by the statistics that show such a large number of people misleading the courts as all separating couples want to do is to move forward with their new lives, whilst trying to minimise the impact it has on their children.

She added, "Fault-based divorce makes it harder for couples to successfully resolve their disputes out of court - it introduces an element of conflict that, as a practicing divorce lawyer and mediator, I have seen derail even the most amicable divorce process. This creates further strain on the court and creates conflict within separating families, which we know leads to poorer outcomes for children. This goes against the government's aim to get more couples resolving disputes out of court."

"If this government is serious about reducing the conflict in our divorce system, bringing in no fault divorce will be an important step forward. A civilised society deserves a civilised divorce process."

If you are thinking about separation or divorce then K J Smith Solicitors can help. As a member of the organisation Resolution, K J Smith Solicitors will strive to deliver a positive outcome without conflict and in the most amicable way possible. For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation with a member of our team, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford) or email info@kjsmith.co.uk.

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