Outdated English divorce law leads to exaggerated unreasonable behaviour claims - Marcia Mediation

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The lack of a no-fault divorce option in English divorce law has led thousands of couples to use exaggerated claims of unreasonable behaviour as a way of getting their separations approved in court, according to a new study.

Figures from law firm Slater and Gordon reveal that many couples have also been economical with the truth about how long they have been separated, or even exaggerated adultery claims, in the absence of an option to divorce immediately without assigning any fault to either party.

In total, the survey found:

  • 3 in 10 couples exaggerated claims of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or how long they had been separated.
  • More than a third said their separation was made more emotionally difficult by being forced to assign blame.
  • More than two fifths said this also had a negative effect on their children’s happiness.
  • More than a quarter ended up feeling bitter towards their ex-partner as a result.

Many couples feel they are stuck between a rock and a hard place; they want to split on good terms but have to find fault in order to get a divorce.


What is the level of demand for no-fault divorce?


More than 1,000 divorced Brits were surveyed and 80% said they would have chosen no-fault divorce if possible.

There can of course be consequences to lying in court, and 15% of those who admitted to doing so said that they regretted it.

In more than two in five cases, the surveyed couples said that they had simply fallen out of love. But among those who had exaggerated the circumstances of their case:

  • 60% had cited unreasonable behaviour that was not entirely accurate or true.
  • 14% had cited exaggerated claims of adultery by their partner.
  • 13% had misled the courts about how long they had been separated.

Nearly 90% thought that a no-fault divorce option would make the process cheaper, with many predicting that no-fault divorce would also be faster.


Will we see no-fault divorce in English divorce law?


The study coincides with reports that the Ministry of Justice is about to launch a public consultation on proposals to introduce a no-fault divorce option into divorce law in England and Wales.

Rumours surrounding the consultation, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News, include a much shorter separation period of as little as six months, and potentially no right to contest a claim for no-fault divorce.

However, it remains to be seen if the rumoured consultation will be launched soon or if the proposals will be adopted into English divorce law at the risk of making it significantly easier for couples to end the legal contract of marriage without apportioning blame to either party.