This is an article about marriage, relationships, break-ups, separation, and notably divorce. In it I explore familiar themes but fear not, I bring positive news if this is a topic you, a family member or a friend have been mulling over.
It’s a commonly understood, although in my view often exaggerated, trend of the New Year to see a wave of enquiries regarding separation and divorce following the festive period.
My experience would suggest there’s a greater number of divorce enquiries after the annual Summer holiday. Often the vacation is booked and planned with thoughts of “make or break” for the relationship. If you can’t rekindle the feelings that brought you together, whilst away from the day-to-day stresses and strains of life, it’s a sign for couples to take stock and consider their respective futures.
Your typical Christmas does of course have its crunch points and I’m not talking of Aunt Edith breaking her dentures on a turkey bone. We know from friends, relatives, and soap operas that what should be a happy, family-focused time can turn as sour as a cheap Sherry glugged into a soggy trifle. Being marooned in the kitchen left to wrestle the bird and all the trimmings whilst the other half gets competitive with the kid’s games can be one of many seasonal triggers.
Thinking back to our time in lockdowns, that too provided opportunities for relationships to be stress tested to breaking point. Working from home with noisy children, territorial incursions to secure the best location for a Zoom call and no relief from the small irritations that suddenly explode into full-scale war. Over many years of practice in family law, I’ve heard pretty much every rationale possible for ending a marriage. From sloppy stacking of dishwashers, discovering their internet search history and obviously infidelity, there are many prompts for initiating the D word.
Being in an unhappy relationship with no sign of relief or improvement can be hugely distressing but despite this, divorce itself can be a very daunting thought. What of the children? Who gets the home? I don’t have a pension what will I live on? Who gets the cat? What about our savings? What about our debts? The questions are all pertinent and often very worrying for someone considering ending their relationship.
One of the factors that also come into play is the stigma of divorce, not as bad as it was decades ago but still seen in certain circles as a mark of failure. The process also invokes horror stories with gossipers all too happy to share case examples for their titillating detail. These are understandable reasons why, no matter how bad things might be, taking steps to end a marriage can take so long.
I should add by way of context, as a lawyer who has direct experience of such matters, the civil courts are also massively overburdened with cases and under-resourced which is leading to considerable delays for those taking a traditional path to divorce. By traditional, I’m referring to the non-mediated, litigious battle between couples where any hope of a sensible dialogue disappeared well before the divorce was even raised.
Now we’re 500 words into this article and I feel it is time to share my positive news. I should stress that this news will be of particular interest if you are still on “talking terms” in your relationship, that’s pretty much essential.
You may be aware that there are now several ways to discuss the legal aspects of ending a relationship, via what is called ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution. These include mediation, collaborative law, and family arbitration. These options have proven successful up to a point however they have each pretty much failed to attract the volume of enquiries that had been hoped for.
It’s worth noting at this point that an important change in divorce law recently occurred which has now helped create a clearer path for those wishing to end their marriage.
From the 6th of April 2022, the blame game rules of traditional proceedings were changed with the introduction of “No Fault Divorce”. No longer will it be necessary to outline the direct cause of marital breakdown, couples will be able to file for divorce or civil partner dissolution without the need to place the blame on their former partner to prove the cause of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
This news has been an exciting and long-awaited development in family law and as a result, there is an opportunity for a fresh approach to the divorce process.
Resolution is an organisation that’s been around for 40 years and was formed by family lawyers with a common purpose, to find a better, non-confrontational way to help families through the process of separation and divorce. Several Mogers Drewett lawyers, including myself, are long-standing members of Resolution and we regularly attend their events and courses. As it happens, I’ve just returned from a course that has been created specifically to address opportunities presented by the no-fault ruling and to assist the UK courts in reducing the cost, time, and necessary resources in completing the divorce process.
I am now officially one of the early adopters, (I personally prefer the term pioneers), of the Resolution Together process which will enable me as a qualified family lawyer and experienced mediator to take instructions from the couple seeking a divorce.
Yes, you read that correctly, I will be able to take instruction from both parties, hence why it is so important that they are on cordial terms and have come to a Gwyneth and Chris moment of “Conscious Uncoupling” creating a different relationship for the purpose of children, families, friends etc but nevertheless divorcing.
Interestingly the announcement of this innovative and logical approach from Resolution has stirred the pot within the legal profession. By our nature lawyers can look for the risks rather than the opportunities so I understand why others may view this as problematic. The view I, Mogers Drewett and obviously Resolution take is one that is client-centric. If the couple is on reasonable terms and open to a sensible conversation to agree on a way through the process that ultimately offers both mutual return and respect, why shouldn’t we as lawyers find a way to facilitate that?
That risk I spoke of which is reflected in the comments posted by worried and angry family solicitors in legal forums, is one of conflict and the “what if?” scenario. What if the couple falls out mid-way through the process? What if one party is far more assertive and domineering than the other? What if the lawyer seems to favour one over the other?
These perfectly understandable concerns are accommodated through our approach which will ensure a fair and measured management of each case with peer oversight and supervision. There will be checks and balances in addition to our usual regulated business compliance procedures. Ultimately if a client is unhappy with any aspect of their matter, they will be free to raise their points at separate one-to-one sessions with me or one of my colleagues.
I am genuinely excited to see this new approach in operation and as with any new process there may be the odd glitch but for me, the upside is far more compelling and supportive of our client’s needs. Oh, and it’s likely this will be somewhat more cost-effective, quicker, and significantly less stressful too. Now, why wouldn’t that be the way to go?
If separation is a subject you or a close contact could be considering why not drop me a line in the strictest confidence, via email, at email@example.com or call me on 07702 802122 or alternatively fill in the enquiry form below.