Time to end the blame game

Grazia Daily reports this week on the latest Nuffield Foundation study on divorce. Ironically, when the legal system is seeking to increase alternatives to litigation and push people more and more to alternative forms of dispute resolution, the opposite is in fact happening. Maybe it is the law of unintended consequences at play, but the reality is that  more couples than ever are finding themselves in court, for what ought to be a procedural paper exercise.

The reason for this is that no-fault divorce is still not a reality in this country. No matter how amicable a separation, unless a couple wants to wait several years before going ahead, one or other of them effectively has to blame the other, so that the divorce can go ahead. With the cost of a lawyer being out of reach of many people, they mistakenly believe that if they don’t challenge or defend the allegations of fault, they will lose out financially or even risk losing the care of their children.

As a divorce practitioner of over a quarter of a century, I’ve seen the the calls for reform get ever louder. Maybe at long last the research of Liz Trinder and the ceaseless work of Resolution in lobbying for change will finally bear fruit very soon. 

Certainly, the high profile case of Mrs Tini Owens whose fight  against her husband’s steadfast refusal to agree to a divorce has so far been unsuccessful, will have all eyes on it when it heads to the Supreme Court next month. I wish her luck, freedom and a consequent change in the law!

Having to go through a divorce is hard enough emotionally, without the law fighting against you. However, it seems that many couples are facing a battle against the legal system when they decide to get divorced thanks to an outdated fault-based law.

According to a study by the Nuffield Foundation, current divorce law is forcing separating couples into futile courtroom battles because of the need to establish who is at fault in causing the marriage to break down. The research found that in the UK, many ‘defended cases are triggered by the law itself’, unlike jurisdictions in the rest of Europe and North America.