This week isn't just any week, it's Good Divorce Week – an awareness raising week all about reducing conflict in divorce. Good Divorce Week has been launched by Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 Family Lawyers and professionals across England and Wales, of which our Head of Family Law, Tracey Moloney, is a member.
The purpose of Good Divorce Week is to highlight the long term effects that conflict during divorce can have on all those involved, and to highlight ways in which this conflict can be reduced.
The Consequences of Conflict in Divorce
Conflict during a divorce can have significant long-term effects on all those involved. What was an amicable separation could become soured, with conflict commonly inflicting deep wounds that may never fully heal. If children are involved then this conflict can also be very damaging for them, potentially impacting on their physical and emotional well-being.
How Conflict in Divorce Could Be Reduced
There have been many calls recently for reforms to divorce law in England and Wales which would see blame removed from the process. Currently, unless a couple is divorcing on the grounds of two or more years of separation, then the divorce depends on one person blaming the actions of the other for the breakdown of the marriage.
The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage must be based on one of the legally recognised reasons (or facts) for divorce. Aside from separation, these are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
When filing for a divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, the person who is making the divorce application (known as the Divorce Petitioner) will need to provide evidence of how their spouse's behaviour has led to the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. The other person is then given an opportunity to dispute these allegations if they feel that they are not being accurately portrayed.
This is where many campaigners, including Resolution, argue that unnecessary conflict arises, as what may have originally been an amicable split can quickly turn sour.
Could No Fault Divorce Be the Answer?
Because of this, there have been a number of high profile campaigns recently for a change to the law that would see a 'no fault divorce' option introduced. This would mean that a couple could state that they have decided to separate simply because things haven't worked out between them.
A number of senior figures within Family Law have been publicly backing these campaigns, including President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale and President of the Family Law Division, Sir James Munby.
In response to this, in September the Government confirmed they will be overhauling divorce law and introducing no fault divorce as an option for couples. The proposals are in the early stages and are still under consultation, but the key suggestions are that:
- Couples won't be required to live separately before divorcing
- There will not be a requirement for one person to provide evidence of their spouse's behaviour
- The other person will not be able to contest the divorce
Justice Secretary, David Gauke highlighted the need for this reform, stating, "It cannot be right that the law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples."