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Good divorce week 2018: Things have to change

Today marks the beginning of “Good Divorce Week”, an awareness-raising campaign by Resolution.

Resolution is a body which represents the majority of specialist family solicitors in this country; it has approximately 6,500 members, all of whom are committed to a Code of Practice which promotes a non-confrontational approach to resolving family problems.

“Good Divorce Week”, at best an awkward phrase, is shorthand for an approach which focuses on how separating or divorcing parents can limit the impact of conflict of family breakdown, both on themselves and their children.

A “good divorce” is, of course, a contradiction in terms.  Any relationship breakdown is, at the very least, difficult and in many cases, it is traumatic, distressing, worrying and terrifying.  Not only are the couple themselves affected, but so are their children.

What is meant by a “good divorce” is managing the breakdown of the relationship in such a way that each party can emerge at the end of the process with as much respect for their former partner, respect for themselves and integrity as possible, while at the same time, limiting the impact of the breakdown on their children.

“Good Divorce Week” is intended to highlight the damage which our current fault-based divorce system causes.

Two-thirds of Resolution’s members have said that the current law makes it harder than it needs to be for separated parents to reach an agreement.

Stowe Family Law is the largest specialist family law firm in the country with 18 offices and over 70 lawyers. We are proud to support this campaign.

We recently undertook our own research which showed that 93% of our solicitors supported a “no fault” divorce system and 91% consider that the current divorce laws did nothing to minimise distress and conflict between divorcing parents.

Currently, there are well over 100,000 divorces in England and Wales every year, 200,000 people, equivalent to the population of some of our bigger towns and cities.

To obtain a divorce in this country now, unless a couple have been separated already for 2 years and they both agree that there should be a divorce, or they have been separated for 5 years or more, they can only obtain a divorce by one blaming the other.  This they can do by alleging adultery on the part of the other person or suggesting that they have “behaved unreasonably”.

It is no surprise therefore that the majority of divorces, over 60%, are based upon either adultery or behaviour.

Divorce is always difficult, for many people it can be the worst time in their lives.  Having to show fault or blame only increases conflict between the couple, makes it more difficult to reach any form of agreement, whether about the children or about the finances, and has a significant impact upon the children.

This “blame game” does no-one any good.

Members of Resolution and family lawyers generally, Barristers and Judges, have been campaigning for many years for successive governments to change the law so that “blame” is no longer required and is replaced by a “no-fault” system of divorce.

Eventually, earlier this year, the government, at last, accepted that reform was needed, announced a consultation of divorce law reform which closes on 10 December 2018.  What’s going to happen after that is anyone’s guess.

What is abundantly clear is that urgent reform is needed.

It is not only family lawyers that are pressing for reform.  71% of the population agree that no-fault divorce is urgently needed.

Once the deadline for the government’s consultation has passed, the government and politicians need to recognise that they need to act and act quickly to protect those whose relationships have broken down and to protect their children.

The divorce rate in this country is worryingly high.  42% of marriages will result in divorce.  This is an acute social and legal problem which cannot be ignored any longer.

GRAHAM COY

22 November 2018

 

Graham was based at the firm's London family law office. His career as a family law specialist has spanned three decades. He is an experienced advocate, mediator and arbitrator who has worked in all areas of family law.

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