Academics to study divorce law in operation

Divorce|September 29th 2015

The day-to-day operation of English divorce law will be subject of two year research project beginning on Thursday 1 October.

A team of researchers will examine the day-to-day reality of laws concerning divorce and the dissolution of civil partnerships in England and Wales, looking in particular at the fact that the system remains fault-based. In order to petition for divorce, a person must cite a specific reason in order to establish that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. The majority of these are attributions of blame. Meanwhile, other jurisdictions operate ‘no fault’ systems in which divorcing couples need not quote any particular reason for wanting to end a marriage or dissolve a civil partnership.

Family law organisation Resolution, as well as such senior legal figures as Sir James Munby and Baroness Hale have all called for the introduction of no fault divorce in England and Wales.

In the official research proposal, Trinder notes:

“Research in the 1990s suggested that the use of fault had the potential to cause or exacerbate hostility between the parties, whilst not saving marriages. Meanwhile, to save judicial time, the 98% of petitions that are undefended are now scrutinised by legal advisers rather than judges.”

The study will examine the “increasing gap” between “the potentially painful requirement on parties to produce evidence of fault and the reality of rather limited inquiries by the court.”

The research team will be headed by Liz Trinder, a professor of socio-legal studies at the University of Exeter, and will also include representatives of relationship charity One Plus One.

The project will run until September 2017, with funding from charitable trust the Nuffield Foundation.

The research proposal is available here.

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