Divorcing couples in England and Wales are forced into making false and exaggerated allegations of adultery or bad behaviour under “fault-based” laws, a report has found.
The result of the 50-year-old system is that people often have to undergo a “painful, and sometimes destructive, legal ritual” with no obvious benefits to any parties, The Times reported this morning.
To achieve a divorce quickly most couples must make dishonest allegations that “can create or exacerbate unnecessary conflict with damaging consequences for children”, according the report by the Nuffield Foundation. The use of false claims that are rubber-stamped by courts is now more routine than the staged or bogus “hotel adulteries” with strangers of the 1930s, it concluded.
The use of fault did not stem from “a peculiarly high level of marital infidelity or misbehaviour in England and Wales” but from people's wish to achieve a divorce within months rather than wait for a minimum of two years if fault was not alleged.
“In practice, therefore, divorce petitions are best viewed as a narrative produced to secure a legal divorce,” the report says. Some 60 per cent of divorces in England and Wales are now based on allegations of fault, ten times the figure in Scotland or France, the study said.
The report, Finding Fault, produced by the charitable trust with academics, is the first full-scale study of how the divorce laws work since the 1980s.