Tensions high around Divorce Day could ‘no-fault divorce’ be a solution?

The post-Christmas news is full of “Divorce Day” – the theory that a stressful Christmas is enough to rush into divorce, sending hordes of people to form an orderly queue at the solicitor’s office on the first Monday in January.

Whilst it may be agreed that there is an increase in enquiries in the New Year there remains a strong feeling amongst family lawyers that “divorce day” is harmful and distasteful. It heightens tensions and stresses which are a hindrance in the divorce process.

Many couples try to avoid slinging mud and making allegations about the others behaviour. Unfortunately, at the moment, for most this is the only way to proceed as, having reached the decision that the marriage is at an end, the prospect of a two year wait to start proceeding simply to avoid making allegations about the other person’s behaviour is untenable.

People seeking to divorce rarely take the step into a solicitor’s office without a significant amount of soul searching and the idea that they are going to make a snap judgement over the festive season is ludicrous.  Even those who are ready to press ahead and start the divorce process have usually had extensive advice, from family, friends and professionals before embarking upon the process.

A significant improvement to help smooth the procedure is the expected introduction of legislation for “no-fault divorce”.  Announced in the Queen’s Speech in December, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation bill proposes the first change to divorce law for almost 50 years.This would mean that couples will no longer need to cite “faults” such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour to end their marriage, but can separately or jointly file a statement of irretrievable breakdown.  If the separation is amicable it will allow couples to divorce within a 20-week time frame.  It would also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships, which are now available to mixed sex couples following December’s law change.

The bill was campaigned for and supported by Resolution, a group of family lawyers who believed that a non-confrontational approach to family issues would produce better outcomes.  Resolution’s former Chair, Nigel Shepherd, said: “We welcome the confirmation that legislation to provide for no-fault divorce will be re-introduced, as well as the Domestic Abuse Bill.  Bearing in mind the almost unanimous support for these measures from politicians, public, professionals and the judiciary, the stop-start nature of these Bills thus far has been frustrating for our members and the families they support.  Our members therefore stand ready to work with MPs, Ministers and officials in order to get these vital reforms over the finish line as soon as possible in 2020.”

Whilst it is believed that the bill will make divorce less acrimonious, experts warn it can still be financially problematic if couples rush into it without planning.

Taking the first important step to make an enquiry and attend an appointment is just that; the first step of many. Divorces are rarely issued on the day of the first appointment with a family lawyer.  At a first appointment a family lawyer should always encourage you to consider whether the marriage is actually at an end. For some this is a decision which has already been made but this certainly it is not always the case.  For those who have already satisfied themselves that the marriage cannot be saved, a family lawyer will advise that it is rarely a helpful approach to simply send off the divorce papers without further ado.  Whilst there will always be some exceptional circumstances that require that divorce proceedings are issued urgently; for example due to jurisdictional disputes or very poor health, the majority of divorces will benefit from a more measured approach.

For couples who have children or financial affairs to deal with there is a huge focus on trying to reach an agreement without going to Court.  Again, this is not always possible but it will certainly be more difficult to achieve a negotiated agreement if the party who starts the divorce process does so in a knee jerk manner.  The tone of the first interaction with your spouse can set the tone of the whole process.

The introduction of ‘no fault’ divorces will not make ending a marriage straightforward overnight. Getting divorced remains a difficult, and often painful, journey.

To arrange a free initial chat please call Ceri Thomas on – (Bolton) 01204 527777, (Blackburn) 01254 268790 or email cthomas@kbl.co.uk

We will listen, advise and remain by your side until you have reached a final settlement, ready to rebuild your life.