Is there such a thing as a Good Divorce?
Monday the 28th November will see the family law group 'Resolution' launch their 'Good Divorce Week.' The week aims to raise awareness of family law issues as well as the benefits of constructive and non-confrontational approaches to family disputes. However the chosen title may appear strange to some and leaves many questioning whether a 'Good Divorce' actually exists.
Who are Resolution?
Resolution is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Resolution also campaigns for improvements to the family justice system. Members of Resolution follow a code of practice that promotes and encourages solutions that consider the needs of the whole family and in particular the best interests of children.
Does a 'Good Divorce' really exist?
Divorce is often considered as being characteristically 'bad'. However, it remains a commonplace occurrence in modern day society with one in two marriages now ending in it. Whilst there will always be those Divorces that are unavoidably hostile, the work of groups like Resolution has resulted in a recent push towards the use of less aggressive methods, such as mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and family consultants, to name but a few. Such approaches aim at reaching compromises between separating couples in a non-confrontational approach by keeping contact with the Court system to a minimum. They are often the best way to enable divorcing couples to avoid the baggage of a difficult, hostile Divorce. Having a good family lawyer can help individuals wade through all the options now available and help them to find their 'Good Divorce'.
Whilst a 'Good Divorce' might well be achievable to some there remains several hurdles which prevent it from becoming the outcome for most separating couples. What Resolution have termed as a 'perfect storm' of court closures, legal aid cuts and bureaucratic breakdown has caused the current Divorce system to become more antagonistic than it might otherwise need to be. Resolution believes that the current system is in need of a drastic overhaul. They advocate that such a move would reduce unnecessary conflict and provide a good platform for the 'Good Divorce' to become a much more common occurrence.
What does Resolution suggest?
One of the key campaigns which Resolution are looking to promote during the Good Divorce Week is the introduction of a no-fault Divorce. Under current arrangements there is only one ground for a Divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This needs to be evidenced in one of five ways:
- Unreasonable behaviour;
- Desertion for two years;
- Separation for two years where it is agreed at the end of the two years that a Divorce should take place; or
- After five years' separation whether or not the Divorce is agreed.
Resolution have branded the current system as a 'blame game', with many divorcing couples still under the misconception that they will be entitled to a larger share of assets if they can prove their partner was to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Unreasonable behaviour and adultery currently account for more than two thirds of all Divorces in England and Wales.
Resolution are suggesting that no-fault Divorces should be available after six months of separation and by mutual agreement. They propose that such a system would help to remove the unnecessary conflict experienced under the current arrangements and move towards more couples finding the much fabled 'Good Divorce'. Resolution also claims that it could help to reduce the pressure which Courts are currently experiencing, with around 110,000 Divorces taking place each year in England and Wales. Many countries already allow a no-fault Divorce, including Spain, Scotland and Australia.
Resolution's other main campaign is extending legal rights to cohabiting couples. There are now 3.3 million cohabiting couple families in the UK, with the number more than doubling over the last twenty years. Despite the myth of 'common law marriage', the notion that cohabiting couples have similar legal rights to married people, if any of these couples were to separate they currently have little or no legal protection. Resolution have recently quoted research suggesting that forty-seven per cent of the British Public mistakenly still believes there's such a thing as 'common law marriage.' In fact, under the current arrangements it's possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. It can be particularly hard on a parent who has given up their career to raise children.
Resolution are campaigning that the high growth in cohabiting couples is further evidence that the law needs to catch up with modern British society. They suggest that partners ought to be able to claim support and assets after two years of cohabitation, or earlier if they have children. Similar arrangements have already been introduced in Scotland and Resolution have suggested that at the last count in 2013, fifty-seven per cent of MPs believe the law needs to be reformed.
Caroline Mitchell, a Solicitor in our dedicated Family Law Team, is a member of the committee of Norfolk Resolution Group. As a committee member, Caroline always seeks to reduce or manage any conflict and confrontation, supports and encourages families to put the best interests of any children first and acts with honesty, integrity and objectivity.
Neale Grearson, who is a partner at Clapham & Collinge and head of the Family Law Team, is a qualified Collaborative Lawyer and member of the Norfolk Good Divorce Group. Norfolk Good Divorce Group is made up of family lawyers from firms throughout the county who are committed to helping clients achieve a divorce or separation in a non-confrontational way, without going to court. As a qualified Collaborative Lawyer, Neale can help to ensure that separating partners agree a divorce settlement that is right for them at a pace that is comfortable for them, rather than having one imposed by the Court. Collaborative Law involves a commitment from all parties to achieving a divorce agreement through dialogue. Negotiation happens in a series of face-to-face meetings involving both parties and their specially trained Collaborative Lawyers. Using a Collaborative Law approach when children are involved can help ensure that their interests remain paramount and that the parties can continue to communicate amicably with each other in the future.
To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Family Law Solicitors will be delighted to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.