Solicitor Mark Chapman is based in Stowe Family Law’s recently opened Winchester office.
The first few weeks of a new year is a common time for reflection and regrettably for some, that will mean thinking about whether they should bring their marriages to an end.
Paradoxically, dealing with a divorce in its strictest sense should be relatively straightforward – if you leave aside the division of the matrimonial finances that is. The stumbling block for many will be deciding under which grounds the divorce should be implemented under and sadly the current fault-based system we have here in England and Wales does not assist in moving matters forward amicably.
If you are contemplating divorcing your spouse sooner rather than later, then you will most likely have to consider whether to issue a divorce petition on the basis of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. As a petition on adultery requires an admission from the other spouse or evidence of infidelity, there are time limits within which that admission can be relied upon in court. So, more often than not, a divorce petition has to be based on behaviour.
For all the supposed bitterness of divorce, in my experience many people at this point do not like be the idea of making allegations about the behaviour of their husband or wife. But it is worth noting that the majority of family lawyers are committed to dealing with matters in a constructive and non-confrontational manner – especially members of Resolution. Family lawyers like the Stowe Family Law team work hard to try and ensure that any allegations are kept as mild as possible, whilst still meeting legal requirements so the case can move through the courts.
Until the government sees fit to change divorce law, we family lawyers will continue guiding clients through these initial stages, trying to ensure that matters set off on the right foot. Sometimes clients ask us why we try so hard to encourage them to adopt a non-confrontational approach at an early stage. Children are one of the simplest answers to that question. Whilst there may be tension and resentment between the soon-to-ex spouses, if the couple have children they will (or should!) still have very strong links with each other in the future as they continue working closely together to raise the children. As strange as it may seem at first glance, viewing your soon-to-former spouse as a potential parenting ally can be a very effective way of appreciating the value of keeping allegations of behaviour as mild and succinct as possible. Of course, doing so does not mean we want to diminish any genuinely bad behavior that may have occurred during the course of the marriage. It is simply a practical way of dealing with the divorce.