Yesterday I made a return visit to the studios of This Morning to answer questions from viewers wrestling with a variety of divorce dilemmas.
It’s the time of the year when thoughts turn to divorce. A spike in enquiries on ‘Divorce Day’ – the first working day of the new year – is a widely recognised event in family law circles. Only last week I appeared on Sky News to discuss the phenomenon, and This Morning invited me back to help answer questions from troubled viewers considering the end of their marriages.
I was joined on those familiar This Morning sofas by veteran agony aunt Denise Robertson. Yes, I am a lawyer but I have always been very aware that divorce is about more than the legal mechanics of the process, as vital as those are. Divorce is one of the most difficult situations any of us ever face and it is very important to acknowledge and deal with your emotions. Our first caller discovered that her husband had been having an affair after a thirty year marriage. Should she divorce him? I told her that she needed to seek counselling first of all, in order to ascertain whether or not she deal with the situation she finds herself in.
Similarly, our second caller told us that her former husband’s new partner was now living in the former matrimonial home, which was due to be sold. My advice? To concentrate on herself first, focus on moving on with her life and establishing her needs. She should not be getting bogged down in concerns about the other woman I believed.
The next caller faced that rather modern phenomenon of emotional infidelity. Her husband had admitted to an affair but said there was no sexual relationship. The answer to her dilemma revolved around whether or not the relationship had irretrievably broken down: the only ground on which you can divorce in English law. An emotional affair may not technically be adultery but it could certainly be classed as ‘unreasonable behaviour’, one of the five available facts which can be used to establish irretrievable breakdown.
Moving on, we came to a caller seeking information on the costs of divorce following separation. This one was easier to answer: a divorce petition costs £410, a sum which should really be split with your soon-to-be-ex spouse.
Our final call came from a woman whose husband had inexplicably left after only three months of marriage. This is a difficult situation to find yourself because under current law you can only divorce once you have been married for 12 months. – to say nothing of the anger she must be feeling. However, I told her, she might be eligible for a remission on court fees given the circumstances, and since she does not know the current whereabouts of her one-time husband, she should consider, I advised, also applying for a ‘dispense with service’ exemption, which, if granted, would allow her to proceed with her divorce application at the end of those twelve months without ‘service’ on him – that is to say, without having to notify her missing spouse.
My appearance is currently available to watch online here.