Examination of Witnesses

Part of Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 2nd July 2019.

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Professor Trinder:

It is extremely unusual. About 2% of divorces in England and Wales intend to defend. Most of those cannot actually continue with that, and only about a dozen out of 100,000 cases go to a fully contested trial each year. Owens is the only case that we are aware of in the last two decades in which the decree has been refused. We also looked at defended cases and had a sample of 74, and none of those were upheld. It is worth noting that in those defended cases, most of them were not defences of the marriage. It was not somebody saying, “No, I don’t believe that my marriage has broken down.” Mostly, they were triggered by the law itself. People were objecting to the allegations of behaviour made against them, including what appear to be perpetrators who defended allegations of quite serious domestic abuse. Because the court tries to settle cases, rather than go to a fully contested hearing, what happened typically was that the particulars were stripped out, so the line went through references to very serious assaults and they were removed from the particulars.