The blame game: why divorce legislation needs to evolve
There are currently only five ways to get divorced in England and Wales, and two of these involve apportioning blame in some way. Unless you have been living separately for at least two years, you can only divorce on two grounds: adultery and unreasonable behaviour.
Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution, reckons that should change. In an article for The Guardian, Shepherd said:
“You end up in what we call the blame game… People are having to kick off [divorce proceedings] with a discussion about blame. Even if you say to them, ‘This is just the system unfortunately, we have to go through this game,’ it still upsets people.”
No fault divorces
Shepherd and others are pressing for a more enlightened system, a ‘no fault’ divorce system that allows couples to divorce when the relationship has broken down through no fault of either party. As Darren Lilly, a recent divorcee quoted in the article said:
“Not all marriages end because someone has been unfaithful or abusive or in any way unreasonable. You can be married pretty quickly and divorce slowly. It needs looking at to reflect modern society.”
Resolution are no way suggesting that a ‘no fault’ system would make divorce easier, or undermine the seriousness and sanctity of marriage. While the small minority of divorcing couples who wish to end their marriage within a year might see this as an opportunity to avoid a two year separation period, the no fault system is much more designed to break the culture of acrimony, bitterness and recriminations that the need to apportion blame can create.
“Less blame”, 20 years on
The idea is nothing new; 20 years ago, a previous act that would have allowed for a ‘less blame’ format was scrapped. Baroness Hale, Deputy President of The UK Supreme Court, has recently introduced a private members’ bill calling for a no fault divorce system. However, she too recognises it won’t be an easy path, saying that the issue is “A bit of a political hot potato”.
Do you need a lawyer?
So, for the meantime, couples need to negotiate their way through the system and, as Shepherd says, play the game. It can be a tricky process, and yet up to 40% of divorcing couples don’t engage the services of a lawyer. This is not so much due to frustration as financial necessity, due to the withdrawal of legal aid to the lowest income families. As one lawyer quoted in the article suggests, this inability to afford representation might have serious consequences for children who will not have the right child care provision put in place for effective co-parenting.
Why a lawyer offers more than just advice and paperwork
At LGFL, we understand that there are costs involved in using legal services such as ours for your divorce, but we firmly believe it is in the best interests of you, your children and your ex-spouse (whether they think so or not!).
It’s not just a case of receiving impartial legal advice, it’s the very real advantage of having someone in your corner, helping you through the process and supporting your case - whether it reaches court or not. Our involvement can result in better financial settlements, clearer child care provision, and a swifter and less stressful transition from married to divorced.
LGFL: happy to help
If you’re at the start of your divorce journey, call us for a no obligation 30-minute consultation, free to clients living within 30 miles of our offices here in North Hampshire. We’ll talk you through the process, what you can expect, and what happens next, so you can decide the best route for you. Our discreet countryside offices ensure you can visit us in private and in a more relaxed atmosphere than a busy city centre office. Call us to make your appointment today.