Make no fault the default, national family justice organisation urges Government

Nigel Shepherd
Resolution, the national family justice organisation, has welcomed the publication of landmark new research which highlights the inherent problems in our current fault-based divorce system.

Finding Fault, written by Professor Liz Trinder and published by the Nuffield Foundation, is the culmination of a piece of academic research into the state of current divorce law in England & Wales. The research took place over two years and heard from over a thousand divorcees, as well as family lawyers and judges.

Resolution has campaigned for the introduction of no fault divorce for decades, and today hailed the research as “a wake-up call for politicians.”

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch in Parliament tonight (30 October), Resolution’s Chair Nigel Shepherd said:

“This authoritative, academic research should eliminate any doubt from government that the law needs to change. Fault-based divorces don’t reflect the reality of relationship breakdown for the majority of couples and do nothing to help them deal constructively with the consequences – indeed they often have the adverse effect of inciting additional conflict between separating partners.

“It’s time to make no-fault the default.”

“The current system, which is unchanged since the beginning of the 1970s, encourages a charade at best, and at worst actively drives a wedge between couples who might otherwise be able to remain on good terms during a divorce. This is bad for them and bad for their children. It is also wholly at odds both with government rhetoric, and with the approach Resolution members take under our Code of Practice.

“At present, many divorcing couples are forced to play the ‘blame game’ – citing examples of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, long after the relationship has broken down, simply to satisfy an archaic requirement on the divorce petition which has its roots in laws drawn up more than a generation ago.

“As the report rightly says, this is an often painful, and sometimes destructive, legal ritual with no obvious benefits for the parties or the state.”

The study adds further weight to the recent calls for no fault divorce from senior figures such as the new President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Family Division, the Chair of the Marriage Foundation, and the Family Mediation Task Force.

It also comes almost a year after Resolution’s Lobby Day, which saw 150 family lawyers bring the campaign for no fault divorce to Parliament.

Nigel Shepherd added:

“Last year I joined with Resolution members from across the country to highlight to MPs from all parties the need for change. We were delighted by the almost universal positive response we received.

“It is a source of great pride that so many have joined the clarion call to remove fault from the process. It is also a source of much frustration that we are still here calling for change.

“The question is: in the face of such overwhelming support, what is the government waiting for?

“With tens of thousands of couples divorcing each year, every day the government delays will see hundreds more forced into a conflict-driven and often destructive divorce system.

“Until this changes, there is a real risk of lasting damage being done to those individuals and – crucially – any children they may have.”