According to a recent study, more and more people are exaggerating claims of behaviour and adultery in order to get divorces through speedily. About a third of couples lie about cheating, length of separation or their partner’s behaviour just to get through the courts quicker. So, why is this happening and what exactly can be done about these exaggerated claims of behaviour?
Figures uncovered by law firm Slater and Gordon last year found that 14% of couples constructed a story about adultery whilst 13% simply lied about the length of separation in order for the courts to grant them a divorce.
42% of those with children said that officially placing blame on someone for the divorce left their children feeling upset, so why do they do it?
Earlier this year in April, the government announced plans to allow no-fault divorces in the UK, which will be a landmark change in 50 years. Whilst the bill got through its first round of support back in June, it is difficult to say when it will come into law. For the moment, the current divorce law holds strong.
There are currently five reasons in the law’s eyes which are grounds for divorce in the UK:
- Unreasonable behaviour – defined as behaviour that would not allow you to live with your partner. You must show that your partner has behaved in such a way that you would no longer be expected to stay together.
Unreasonable behaviour is the most common reason for divorce in the UK as the petitioner for the divorce can set out a petition outlining various behaviours that the court must acknowledge. Allegations can include excessive drinking, financial extravagance, abuse etc.
- Adultery – you must prove by admission or sufficient evidence that your partner has cheated on you.
However, whilst adultery can be used as grounds for divorce it must be noted that no more than six months can have passed between you discovering the affair and filing a petition for court unless the adultery has continued.
- Desertion – your spouse must have deserted you without your consent for a period of two years but you must be able to prove that you had the intent to divorce during that period which can be difficult to evidence in a court of law
- 2 year separation with consent – if you and your partner have been separated for 2 years and both agree to the divorce then the court will grant it. If you are separated but have still been living together for your children, for example, you must be able to prove that you have been living separate lives.
- 5 year separation without consent – if you and your partner have been separated for 5 years, one of you can file for divorce without needing the other’s consent.
There are of course caveats to each of these grounds but the best way to know is to contact an experienced professional.
If we look at these five reasons, we can see that there is no option to blame neither party but how do we know if people want the no-fault divorce?
We have to compare two statistics to demonstrate the problem. In 2015, 60% of divorces in England and Wales were sought for adultery and unreasonable behaviour. In the same year, only 6% of divorces in Scotland were cited for these reasons.
Scotland has the no-fault divorce in place as an option; it allows people who have simply fallen out of love or grown apart to divorce without stretching the truth. The current UK system does not allow for this reason, which in turn, places pressure on the justice system.
Research undertaken by the Nuffield Foundation in the same year analysed 592 divorce case files as well as interviews with subjects. Throughout all the case files they found that no petitions were challenged despite there being evidence that claims were disputed. The courts neither have the resources or the time to investigate every case that could include exaggerated claims of behaviour. By not allowing no fault divorce, is the establishment encouraging an atmosphere of dishonesty?
There is an uncertainty surrounding the definition of unreasonable behaviour and adultery (the two most commonly cited). Some lawyers are filing claims of behaviour worse than necessary in order to push through the divorce in a timely manner.
Divorce is a serious matter that should be handled with care and precision. A divorce solicitor should take the time to talk through your options and what each claim means for your future. Divorce is an unfortunate process but it is exactly that, a process. Marriage is a legal contract that cannot be broken on demand but only through a set of legal steps.
The breakdown of a relationship can be complex and messy but it should not have to suffer at the hands of exaggerated claims; these claims can be detrimental to your family and yourself in the long-run. A contested divorce may arise and can create the very thing it sought to prevent, a long battle in court.
Divorce can be traumatic when all that is needed is the separation of two people for reasons that were perhaps nobody’s fault. Encouraging a system of blame has its effects which aren’t in keeping with the times.
It is clear that many couples would prefer an amicable split but this is just not an option in the UK. It is more than likely that the no-fault bill will pass through parliament soon but it is just a matter of time.
The average time for a bill to pass is around one year so we could be seeing no-fault divorce in the UK as early as next April but until then many couples will continue to do what is necessary to get a divorce.