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Study to turn spotlight on divorce

A major study is to examine current law on the grounds for divorce and civil partnership dissolution and whether it needs reform.

Resolution, an organisation of lawyers that promotes a constructive, non-confrontational approach to resolving family law issues, announced on 25 August that the Nuffield Foundation charitable trust is to fund a two-year research project examining the issue.

The organisation said that the long delays associated with no fault grounds for divorce – either a two-year separation with both parties’ agreement or a five-year separation if one partner does not agree – meant there was heavy reliance on the fault-based grounds of behaviour, adultery and desertion. In 2012, 48 per cent of divorces were granted on the basis of behaviour and 14 per cent on adultery.

Resolution said: “We are concerned that petitions that rely on apportioning some blame risk creating or inflaming conflict and thus undermining the opportunity for people to resolve disputes outside of court.”

It said that as long ago as 1990, the Law Commission – the body that reviews and makes recommendations for reform of the law – had highlighted problems with fault-based divorce, including that the law was confusing, created unnecessary hostility, made things worse for children by increasing parental conflict and did nothing to save marriages.

The project will include a survey exploring public attitudes to the grounds for divorce and reform of the law, research into the way the courts investigate divorce petitions alleging adultery or unreasonable behaviour and exploring how divorce petitions are produced and what effect they have on the people involved. The survey results will be available early next year and the outcome of the other studies by 2017.