Fresh study adds weight to calls for no-fault divorce

New research highlighted in The Times this week suggests that UK couples are increasingly ‘alleging fault’ in their efforts to obtain speedy divorces.

According to a study carried out by Oxford University, the number of divorces granted on grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ has skyrocketed in recent years.

The figures reveal that, among women, the number of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ divorces has increased from just 17 per cent of all divorces back in 1971 to more than half (51 per cent) in 2016.

Meanwhile, among men, the number of such divorces has risen from a record low of two per cent to more than a third (36 per cent) of all divorces over the same period.

Under existing laws in England and Wales, couples seeking a divorce within less than two years of splitting up need to feasibly demonstrate that their marriage has broken down irretrievably by citing a ‘fault-based’ reason for the split.

However, many commentators believe that such laws are woefully outdated – and that they are unnecessarily encouraging couples to cite unreasonable behaviour in divorce petitions in order to secure a speedy divorce.

Professor Liz Trinder of Exeter University, which carried out another study into divorce trends and unreasonable behaviour earlier this year, argued that the current laws make it “more difficult than it needs to be” for couples to split amicably.

“Having to blame one person to get a divorce does not help and, in most cases, is unfair,” she said.

“These laws are now nearly 50 years old and reform is long overdue.”

Last week, the long-running case of a Mrs Tini Owens’ efforts to secure a divorce from an unhappy marriage drew to a close at the Supreme Court.

The 68-year-old lost her fight to gain permission to divorce her husband Hugh after 40 years of “loveless” marriage following a unanimous Supreme Court decision, which commentators claim yet again highlights the need to introduce no fault divorce in England and Wales.

If introduced, a ‘no-fault divorce’ law would enable couples to split without having to prove ‘wrongdoing’ on one side of the relationship, or having to have been living separately from their partner for two or more years.