At long last! A momentous moment for those who long for no fault divorce. Following yesterday’s (17th June) historic vote in the Commons, finally couples will be able to divorce without attributing blame. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has passed all of its stages. Royal assent should follow soon so hopefully from a practical point of view we will see no fault divorces in 2021.
There is no doubt in my view that this will help those facing the emotional trauma of divorce to get through the process in a fair and humane way. I saw time and time again during my career as a family lawyer the damage caused when one party has to blame the other. Blame is divisive. It is damaging. It is an unhelpful emotion which creates negative energy. It also results in disagreements as rarely couples see eye to eye as to why their marriage has ended. This causes delays and additional financial and personal cost.
In my experience, people think very hard before they take the decision to divorce. Often, they have spent years trying to resolve their differences, attending counselling and quietly reflecting before they resolve that the marriage is at an end. It is a deeply upsetting time for all. Once this difficult decision has been made, the law should not require them to apportion blame. Sometimes clients can never get over what is put in a divorce petition. It stays with them and can impact their emotional recovery.
I really believe that this long overdue change will help couples deal with the emotional trauma of divorce away from the legal process, with professionals such as counsellors or family consultants who are trained to help work through these powerful emotions and help families focus on what is important. It will help children as they will not be caught up in the middle of disputes about which parent is at fault. They will not need to know why their parents are separating which will allow them to focus on living their childhood and adapting to the changes in their family circumstances with parents who are not focused on negative emotions which can be harboured through continuing anger and blame.
It will save legal fees because there will be no need for detailed discussion about who is at fault and the huge upset this brings. This means that family lawyers can focus on the process of divorce rather than disputes about the reasons for the end of the relationship.
It will focus the mind on what is important in moving forward. It can also help couples focus on the good things which have come out of their time together, rather than just what went wrong and who is at fault for this. It will not make divorce easier. It will just avoid some of the additional pain of divorce which can only be a good thing in my eyes.