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Finding Fault research has contributed to proposed divorce legislation to prevent family conflict

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Impact highlights

A Bill currently before Parliament seeks to remove fault entirely from the divorce system in England and Wales. The change has been driven by our research on no fault divorce.

The proposed law will provide a more honest and straightforward process for separating couples and reduce conflict and suffering for them and their children.

By Nuffield Foundation

A Bill currently before Parliament seeks to change the law on divorce to provide a more honest and straightforward process for separating couples, and to reduce conflict and suffering for them and their children.

The change has been driven by our research on how the divorce law in England and Wales is working in practice. The Finding Fault project, led by Professor Liz Trinder at the University of Exeter, provided empirical evidence that the current law encourages dishonesty and undermines the aim of the family justice system.

The Finding Fault research directly resulted in new government legislation which, when it becomes law, will benefit a million families over the next decade through a clearer, fairer and less harmful divorce process.

Making the case for divorce law reform

We launched the 2017 Finding Fault report at a House of Lords reception hosted by Baroness Butler-Sloss, and its call for reform received support from leading members of the judiciary, the legal profession, and many senior parliamentarians. Media coverage of this initial report included a front page story in The Times, which used it as a launchpad for a campaign for wider divorce reform.

To capitalise on this interest, we funded Professor Trinder to work with Baroness Butler-Sloss to draft a Private Members Bill requesting government to review the divorce law and report back to Parliament.

In September 2018 the Ministry of Justice responded with a consultation that drew heavily on both Finding Fault, and a further report, No Contest, which was published by the Foundation in April.

In February 2019 the then Justice Secretary David Gauke confirmed his intent to bring legislation removing the need for separating couples to wait for years or allocate blame for the end of their relationship. In response, we published further reports in the Finding Fault series, including a comparative report on international divorce law.

Ahead of the second reading of the Divorce and Separation Bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday 25 June 2019, we sent a short policy briefing note to all MPs. Our Finding Fault research was referenced during the debate.

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

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