Research conducted by family law organisation Resolution has shown that approximately a third of all divorcing couples apply to court on false grounds. Upwards of 100,000 divorces are granted in England and Wales each year, with over half (57%) of these based on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. According to Resolution’s research, 27% of couples admitted to lying or embellishing their reasons for applying for divorce in the hope that it would make the process quicker and easier. Instead of waiting two or more years to divorce, couples are stating adultery and unreasonable behaviour as causes for separation, allowing them to complete the process faster.
Former Chair of Resolution Jo Edwards explains: “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.
“The alternative, living for two years as a separated couple before divorce proceedings can be started, is financially and emotionally untenable for many people.”
Newly appointed Resolution chair Nigel Shepherd used his first speech in the position to bring further awareness to the issue: “It’s wrong – and actually bordering on cruel – to say to couples: if you want to move on with your lives…. one of you has to blame the other.”
The report supports Resolution’s call for the introduction of ‘no fault divorce’, suggesting that the animosity of court divorce is the reason people “resort to agreeing to make an untrue allegation in court of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, in order to move on with their lives.”
Frances Lindsay, an experienced family law solicitor, arbitrator and mediator, highlights the effect of fault-based divorce on children when parents separate: “It is time that no fault divorce was a part of the divorce process. There is nothing to be gained financially from placing the blame for the breakdown of a marriage on one party. Many people believe that if one person is seen to be at fault then they will suffer financially. No judge wants to unpick someone else’s relationship. How is a judge to quantify how much ‘bad behaviour’ is worth? In terms of the ongoing relationship between the parties, essential if there are children, the hurt and embarrassment caused by having to make allegations of bad behaviour or adultery spill over and are often picked up by the children who feel they need to take sides.”
Chris Sherwood, chief executive of Relate, also commented: “The current fault-based system is outdated – it can undermine the work being done to encourage couples to resolve disputes out of court and detract from efforts to ensure families are able to establish positive parenting relationships beyond separation. What we now need is to move away from a system which encourages false allegations and conflict towards a way of working which supports honesty and collaboration.”
There are several out-of-court alternatives which focus on collaboration and cooperation instead of pitting couples against one another, enabling them to come to a practical solution that’s not based on blame. Mediation and collaborative family law have been shown to be effective methods of dispute resolution for couples who feel able to work together to divide their assets, organise provision for children, and move on in a positive way.
For more information on separation and to get in touch with an expert, friendly family law solicitor, visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk. Our team of family lawyers work across Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, including Beaconsfield, Maidenhead, Henley, High Wycombe, Marlow, Gerrards Cross and Windsor.arbitration, collaborative family law, divorce, divorce solictor Thames Valley, mediation