As marriage rates have fallen in recent years, divorce rates have also gone down, but family solicitors reported a massive surge in divorce enquiries from clients in the run up to Christmas and predicted the number of petitions will soar in 2010.The recession has been blamed for the rise in the number of couples seeking to get divorced because of the extra strain put on their relationships. But it was also blamed for the drop in divorces last year as couples put off the decision to separate due to uncertainty over house prices.
Solicitors have come up with novel ways to help their divorce clients, whether by providing mediation, training in the collaborative law process, offering online services or even divorce vouchers.
But the divorce process itself remains archaic, with one party still required to blame the other before they are able to get a divorce unless they wait for two years.
A briefing note sent by the family law team at London firm Manches suggests that clients are increasingly looking for a ‘better divorce’ in which they no longer have to blame their spouse for the demise of the relationship.
Manches said: ‘Clients are surprised to be told that unless they wait for two years of separation to elapse, one spouse must blame the other for the break-up even when the reality is invariably that they have drifted apart and that both are responsible.’
It said that more than 90% of divorces are based on the ‘fault’ of one of the parties – around two-thirds being based on the unreasonable behaviour of one party and one quarter on adultery.
But, as many others have argued, the briefing goes on to suggest that this necessity to prove fault ‘instils a culture of blame from the very beginning of any divorce’ which ‘sets an unconstructive tone’ that can be difficult for clients to move away from.
The current law on divorce simply makes the process take longer than it needs to and increases the acrimony and animosity that processes like collaborative law and mediation are designed to reduce.
So would the introduction of a no-fault divorce not be the most effective way to reduce this animosity and stress, and enable all parties concerned to move on in a more timely manner?
And after all, there is no requirement for people to live together or be in a relationship with each other for two years before they marry, so why impose such a time period before allowing couples to part.