Very few divorce petitions rejected on substantive legal grounds, whether ‘true’ or not

Posted on March 30, 2017

Interim findings of research into fault-based divorce published

Following the Court of Appeal judgment where a woman was refused a divorce from her husband, Professor Liz Trinder of University of Exeter has published interim findings from Finding Fault?, research into the need for reform of divorce law in England and Wales. It represents the first major research study on divorce law since the 1980s.

The key interim findings are as follows:

  • The majority of divorces are based on ‘fault’ i.e. blaming one spouse for the marriage breakdown.
  • Using fault (adultery or behaviour) means the divorce can take as little as three months, instead of a wait of at least two years.
  • Divorce petitions are not necessarily accurate records of who or what caused the breakdown of the marriage. Petitions can be based on compromise statements (a ‘fudge’) designed to minimise conflict and upset, or can be just one person’s view of what went wrong with the marriage.
  • The threshold for behaviour petitions appears to be lower than 30 years ago. Very few petitions appear to be rejected on substantive legal grounds, whether ‘true’ or not.
  • Fault can create or worsen conflict. This can affect negotiations about children or finances where the law expects parties to work together.
  • So far, there is no evidence from this study that the current law does protect marriage.
  • Reform of the divorce law is long overdue. A single system of notification of intent to divorce would be clearer, more honest and neutral between petitioner and respondent.

At Jefferies, we specialise in helping people going through a breakdown in their marriage or relationship. None of these findings come as a surprise to us. We are expert in moving you forward in a constructive way at a time when you need a calm, expert view. Contact us on

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