Divorce can be a difficult and painful process, especially where laying blame is concerned. The latest statistics show that just over 100,000 British couples divorced in 2020 – an average divorce rate of 42%.
New UK divorce laws are now in force
New divorce laws that came into force in the UK on April 6th, 2022, are the first changes introduced since 1973. Married and civil partnership couples can now obtain a divorce without having to assign blame to the other party.
A ‘Conditional Order’ replaces the old ‘Decree Nisi’, making the language of divorce much easier to understand. Furthermore, a period of 20 weeks has been introduced to give the parties time for reflection or to make practical arrangements regarding children, finances, and property.
Under the old rules, to have grounds for divorce, it had to be proved that the relationship was ‘irretrievably broken-down’ by stating one of five reasons – adultery, unreasonable behavior, two-year separation with consent, five-year separation without consent, or desertion. The highest cited reason is unreasonable behavior, followed by separation and, lastly, adultery.
Second on the list of most stressful life events
Divorce is often referred to as the second most stressful life event after the death of a spouse or loved one. Amongst the many negative consequences, divorce can cause emotional distress and fracture important family relationships.
The new law enables couples to divorce without having to apportion blame, allowing them to get on to the more practical decisions involving children and finances. This means they can move on more smoothly, hopefully reducing conflict and making for a more amicable resolution.
The new law introduces a minimum 20-week timeframe between starting legal divorce proceedings and applying for a conditional order. This gives couples time to reflect and turn back, or if reconciliation is impossible, put necessary arrangements in place for the future.
Government funding is also available in the form of vouchers (each worth £500) to pay for mediation services to help resolve disputes. Mediation involves working through the differences between the parties to reach agreements on how to split assets and arrange childcare contact, avoiding the need to attend court and have a judge decide, a process that can have distressing and uncertain outcomes.
Traditionally, using solicitors to sort out the legalities of divorce has increased costs for divorcing couples. Now couples can handle the divorce process online for a significantly lower outlay.
Encouraging healthy relationships
According to a European survey reported in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (published July 7th, 2019), the real reasons cited by couples for ending a marriage included –
- Lack of intimacy;
- Communication problems;
- Lack of sympathy, respect, or trust; or
- Simply being unhappy
This reiterates the need as a society to encourage healthy relationships, reduce parental conflict, and improve children’s wellbeing and life chances – a view backed by the relationship guidance charity Relate.
This is where its relationship support services come into play. Where conflicts need resolving, Relate offers much-needed support to help make the most of our relationships – whether that be counseling, training, workshops, or self-help resources.
Ultimately, not having to apportion blame and point the finger means that divorcing couples can hope to move on in their life in a much more harmonious way. This, in turn, can only be good for everyone involved or affected by the process.