No fault divorce is finally here and it couldn’t be more welcome. This really is a momentous moment for those who have been campaigning for no fault divorce for many years and most importantly for my clients who want to divorce without attributing blame which inevitably only adds to conflict and brings resentment. The old divorce law was over 50 years old which shows how overdue this change is.
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, attend counselling, 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 areas where clients often need the most help (working through their financial circumstances and exploring their options) 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. I’ve been on several training courses to work through the new process and understand how it will work in practice. It is still a legal process which will take time but it can be a collaborative process with a joint application for a divorce. The focus has gone from blame to working through the various stages to bring a marriage to an end in a way which is respectful, without conflict. It will avoid some of the additional pain of divorce which can only be a good thing in my eyes.