This morning, I was invited onto the Bernie Keith show on BBC Radio Northampton to discuss divorce and how much the process has changed since I first became a family lawyer.
I explained that when I first began my career as a solicitor, the process was extremely aggressive. So were the older lawyers. I remember one case I handled during which we sent a long letter to the lawyers representing our client’s partner which laid out what we wanted in great detail. To say the response was terse would be an understatement. The letter we received simply read: “Dear Sirs, no.”
That feels like a lifetime ago. The attitude of the courts is very different. Now, the goal is to use courts less, to encourage people to settle and to generally be more conciliatory and sensible.
The process itself is also far less confrontational. When I started, if someone was alleging unreasonable behaviour in their divorce petition (which is still one of the five ways to demonstrate a marriage has irretrievably broken down), they had to stand up in court and give evidence of such behaviour. It was truly awful having all that information out in the public. Now, however, the bare minimum of detail is sufficient.
Divorce is much more than the legal process, though. As a divorce lawyer, my hope when I meet a new client is that when we are done, they have got their lives back on track and their confidence restored.
That said, I always try to encourage clients to be pragmatic and to forget the emotional side as best they can. I think the hardest part about a divorce is simply accepting that it’s happening. For a lot of people that is very hard to do.
I also talked to Bernie about the importance of counselling, the fact that divorce isn’t for everyone and the effect of ‘Divorce Day’ in January, among other things.
To listen to the full conversation, click here. My segment begins at 01:22:05 and will be available for the next few weeks.