How long will the court retain a divorce file?

We learn from the judgment in a recent case in the Supreme Court that there are ‘internal instructions’ requiring the family court in England & Wales to retain their file on a couple’s divorce for 100 years. This is surprising, given that 100 years after the divorce of even the youngest couple both parties will probably have been dead for 30 or 40 years.

What is even more surprising is that after 18 years the court is allowed to strip the file of most of the documents, including the petition. In the recent case the court had actually lost the entire file, but the divorce had been finalised more than 18 years previously, so even if the file could have been found it might not have contained the petition. Neither party had a copy of the petition. It would have helped the court to know for certain whether the wife in her petition had applied for financial relief.

Odd. How much space in our court buildings is taken up with ancient divorce files that are never going to be needed? And how much is it costing the taxpayer to operate this system?