Why I’m in favour of ‘No Blame’ Divorces.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
I work with many, many parents going through a divorce on my
6-Week Divorce Coaching – Putting Your Children First Programme and what is very clear to me is that we need to remove the need for allegations of adultery and blame so families can divorce with dignity.
I’d like to see the detrimental need to point the finger of blame to be taken out of matrimonial disputes so a parent doesn’t need to be held at fault in order to obtain a divorce as it causes unnecessary bitterness and distress to families already in a stressful situation.
Divorcing couples currently have to cite one of five reasons: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion for two or more years; two years’ separation with consent; or five years’ separation without consent.
The second reason – unreasonable behaviour’ – is by far the most widely used.
Around 120,000 couples divorce in England and Wales each year and those who want to divorce quickly are encouraged to cite unfaithfulness or unreasonable behaviour, which, I believe encourages recriminations.
This puts parents in direct conflict with each other and exacerbates the stress for the whole family. It is very upsetting for children caught in the crossfire of the recriminations.
I personally found it really upsetting to fill in the form after 22 years of marriage citing unreasonable behaviour.
I also would like to see parents being made to sort out their arrangements for their children and their finances before obtaining a divorce as part of the changes.
I think we should make the process slightly longer and encourage parents to sort out what happens to the home, children, money before, rather than after, they get a divorce.
I think it would be helpful to have a 9 month to one-year ‘cooling off period’ after declaring that their marriage had permanently broken down in order for both parents to sort out arrangements.
I believe divorce is a process NOT an event and it is better to step back from the anger, before making very important decisions in the heat of the moment.
A no-fault divorce would also reduce long, cutthroat court battles over who is to blame when marriages fail, resulting in lower legal fees and more time-efficient proceedings too.
Even in instances of adultery the option of filing for a no-fault divorce allows parents to avoid airing their dirty laundry in public and their privacy is respected which I think is better for the children. Then litigation could focus on the needs of the parties rather than focusing on proving fault.
Less time spent on focusing on accusations and less emphasis placed on the actions that led to the divorce, keeps parents moving forward and avoids even more stress & emotional turmoil.
I don’t believe a ‘no fault divorce’ makes divorcing too easy or more acceptable or preferable to raising children in a happy united family but it takes away the rancour and bitterness when couples have decided to divorce.
I was honoured to be part of the panel for launching Resolution’s Manifesto for changes in Family Law.
Resolution’s Manifesto for Family Law, launched in February 2015, set out the changes that they also want to see to the justice system to make it fit for modern British families.
Resolution want to see a family justice system that:
1. provides support through relationship breakdown
2. puts children first, helping separating / separated parents to work together in the child’s best interests
3. provides fair and lasting outcomes on relationship breakdown
protects all those at risk of harm and sufferers of domestic abuse.
Resolution’s Manifesto identifies six key areas where changes are needed to our family justice system here in the UK.
Protect vulnerable people going through separation
Introduce measures to keep divorce out of court
Introduce a Parenting Charter to help parents understand their responsibilities when they separate
Allow people to divorce without blame
Give people more financial clarity on divorce
Protect couples who live together
In my experience few people enter into a divorce lightheartedly. A divorce is heart wrenching, distressing and sad. Even when divorce is the only answer, it is painful and when it becomes a war, with blame and recriminations the idea of victory and winning is really unhelpful for everyone.
So I think Britain needs to move towards ‘No Blame’ Divorce, like in USA & Australia to ease the distress caused to families as a whole.
Getting divorced doesn’t need to be all about fault and blame. A collaborative and sensible approach between parents and lawyers working together with a reasonable attitude and some common sense, often can save many months of upset and stress because going to Court really should be a last resort.