Collaborative law and the 'good' divorce

With this summer’s Supreme Court ruling in the case of Owens vs Owens, the issue of acrimonious divorce was thrust into the headlines. The latest statistics show there are over 100,000 divorces in England and Wales every year, with unreasonable behaviour being cited as the most common cause for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples (ONS 2018). But do the figures tell the real story or is the law as it stands driving couples to apportion blame? With calls for the introduction of the ‘no-fault’ divorce, it’s hoped that a change in the law will help more couples may part ways on amicable terms in the future.

So, where does that leave you if you’re considering divorcing your partner now and is there really such a thing as a ‘good’ divorce? Even in the absence of a ‘no-fault’ system, a collaborative approach and help from Resolution trained solicitors can help you avoid the courts, keep legal costs down and reach an amicable settlement that’s in the best interests of you and your children.

Grounds for divorce - Playing the blame game

A relationship breakdown is never easy, especially when children are involved. As it stands, when petitioning for divorce, you need to prove that your marriage has broken down due to one of the following grounds:

  1. Adultery – this only applies to opposite-sex couples. You also can’t cite adultery if you continue to live as a couple for 6 months after discovering the fact.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour – examples include domestic violence, abuse, drug-taking or refusing to take financial responsibility for household bills.
  3. Desertion – not commonly used as it can be hard to prove. The Petitioner must show that their partner has left them with the intention of ending the relationship without their agreement, without a good reason and for a period of more than 2 years.
  4. Separation of more than 2 years – the parties have not lived as a couple for this period and agree to the divorce in writing.
  5. Separation of at least 5 years – if you’ve been apart for this length of time you can petition for a divorce, even if the other party does not agree.

With desertion being hard to prove, and long periods of separation being necessary for the other two grounds for divorce, it’s easy to see why couples more commonly cite unreasonable behaviour or adultery. However, as they involve proving that a former partner is at fault, it can be a recipe for increasing conflict and making an already emotionally-charged situation more hostile.

Collaborative law - Finding a better way

Mediation is one of the best ways to resolve a dispute. Sitting down in a four-way meeting and talking face-to-face with the support of specially-trained experts is far more likely to lead to an amicable divorce settlement than leaving it solely up to your respective solicitors and the family courts to sort out. We understand that everyone wants to make the important practical and financial decisions regarding their future, so instead of drawing up battle lines, we try and work together to find solutions that suit everyone. Taking a collaborative law approach to your divorce has many benefits:

  • It’s a faster process which can be tailored to your family’s schedule and priorities.
  • You save money by avoiding the courts and protracted legal wrangling.
  • It’s a more harmonious process which can help your relationship be more cordial, a particularly important factor to consider if you have children together.
  • You each have the support of solicitors who are trained in reaching amicable agreements that work in the best interests of those involved.

Helping you reach an amicable Resolution

Deciding that you want to divorce your partner is never an easy decision, but the process can be made more harmonious with help from the experts. At Rowberry Morris our specialist family lawyers are members of Resolution, an organisation dedicated to resolving family disputes constructively, and all abide by the Resolution Code of Practice. Our experienced solicitors will take a non-confrontational approach to settling your divorce and consider the needs of the whole family in the process.

If you’d like to speak to one of our family law experts, please get in touch. You can rest assured we will deal with your divorce with the confidentiality and sensitivity it deserves.

You can also read our Collaborative Law leaflet for more information.