Do the nation’s divorcees practice what they preach? That’s the question family lawyers across the country will be asking themselves today following publication of new research by national family law association Resolution.
Findings from the survey, into national attitudes to divorce and separation, paint a picture of good intentions at variance with stereotypes of angry couples rowing in courtrooms. We find, for instance, that a majority of respondents (53 per cent) would make minimising conflict a priority while going through a divorce, while a decisive 78 per cent (or four out of five) would make their children’s interests their highest – or second highest – priority.
Meanwhile, hardly any of the people surveyed claimed to attach any significance to the financial side of divorce. Just one per cent admitted that being better off than their former partner would be a priority for them.
So far, so commendable.
Now let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. In spite of these good intentions, a decisive majority of the people surveyed still believe that children still frequently turn into the principal casualties of divorce. In addition, it seems that the idea of divorce is still firmly linked in many people’s minds with both courts and conflict. In spite of the available alternatives, 45 per cent said they thought most divorces involved going to court, while forty per cent said they thought divorces can never be free from conflict. Tellingly, the latter figure rose to 47 per cent amongst respondents who are divorced themselves.
The results of this survey unsurprisingly reflect the difference between the public’s expectations of divorce and the harsher realities of actually going through a relationship breakdown. Every marital breakdown is a tragedy to a greater or lesser degree and the children are the inevitable casualties but the experienced, modern day family lawyer is fully equipped to help parties going through the maelstrom of emotion and legal procedure.
Experienced lawyers will have seen many clients go through divorce and seen how they have reacted and adapted to the changes that follow the end of a marriage. We can counsel and reassure and ensure that a party’s expectations of divorce are achieved as far as possible.
The court process is well-intentioned and designed to promote negotiation and settlement at the earliest possible stage before a fully contested trial is necessary. But, sadly, the court system is weighed down by delays thanks to a lack of resources and frequent short-staffing.
Resolution is a highly commendable group of family lawyers dedicated to finding the most constructive and non-confrontational solutions to family conflicts, and indeed their survey has been launched to mark the launch of Family Dispute Resolution Week, held to raise awareness of alternatives to traditional court confrontation.
These alternative routes include collaborative law, mediation and arbitration. They are all designed to be less adversarial, more efficient and thus hopefully less expensive routes to resolving the various financial issues and arrangements for children that arise from divorce. They all have their place, and certainly work for some people depending on their circumstances, but ultimately there is no substitute for the sensible and commercial advice of an experienced family lawyer.
Divorce is unpleasant and anger is common but thankfully, most people are eventually able to put the negativity aside in order to reach a resolution and protect the interests of their children. But ultimately, perception is everything. If someone in the throes of a divorce says their priority is their children’s interests, they may genuinely believe it is. Even if it is clear to the rest of us that it isn’t.
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