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2017 really was the year of the divorce! We all agreed with the momentum behind Resolution’s “no fault” divorce campaign, then judgments in the divorce case of Mr and Mrs Owens and now new divorce statistics from the ONS showing that divorces are up 5.8% on 2015.
What we need to consider is: What do the latest statistics really tell us? Even though divorces (including same-sex divorces) are both higher than they were last year, the numbers are still nowhere near the peak in 2003 when they were over 150,000. However, bear in mind that it is most likely that the key factor in the overall drop during this period is no doubt that more couples are choosing to live together rather than marry – cohabitation is currently the fastest growing family type in the UK. We should point out at this stage that cohabitation has its own pit-falls and disadvantages which most people are totally oblivious about.
The statistics on divorce also do not tell us anything about how people feel about going through a divorce, in particular most people may feel there is no over-riding need to apportion blame at the divorce stage. At present, the only way to divorce without apportioning blame is to separate for at least two years. For most people, waiting two years to sort out the finances rules out this option at the outset. This means that they must diligently record details either of their partner’s adultery or their unreasonable behaviour in order to proceed with the divorce petition, making an already difficult and distressing process even harder. This seems particularly pointless in view of the fact that the reasons for divorce make no difference to any financial settlement or children arrangement – they are simply to allow the divorce to proceed to the next stage. Resolution is quite rightly campaigning for changes to the current divorce laws to remove the blame, making it easier for people to manage their separation with as little conflict and stress as possible and reducing the likelihood they will end up in court. This change would allow many couples to move on with their lives amicably and proceed with divorce with minimum conflict. There would be no need to apportion the blame to one party.
2018 may bring some exciting changes to accommodate the new mood towards divorce. It is clear that there is an increasingly vocal lobby demanding reform, we can only hope that the government takes note and acts to end the blame game.