Guest blog by Nicola Withycombe
Few take the decision to divorce lightly – especially parents. Earlier this month the Government’s long-awaited decision to update our archaic 50-year old laws and to implement ‘no-fault’ divorce legislation was finally announced. And for families, it cannot come soon enough!
Under current UK law there is one legal ground for divorce: “irretrievable break- down” of a marriage. And there are three main reasons you can give to show a marriage has irretrievably broken down: adultery; unreasonable behaviour or separation.
Given that the first two of these reasons are all about attributing or apportioning blame, it’s clear these criteria have a profoundly negative and adversarial affect on how many couples approach and embark on the legal process. It should come as no surprise then that levels of animosity, hostility and conflict often escalate to the point where many end up in protracted family courtroom battles, spending unnecessary, and often excessive amounts of time, money and emotional energy!
The move by the Ministry of Justice follows a public consultation, which showed overwhelmingly widespread support for the new initiative, as well as a lengthy period of conscientious campaigning for reform by resolute family justice professionals and organisations. Responses revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.
With 40% of marriages currently ending in divorce, many trusted institutions have delivered extensive research, assessments and reports illustrating how the parental ‘blame-game’ and the associated conflict has a profoundly damaging emotional impact on the lives of children. Many family professionals feel the current law has been failing to meet the welfare needs of families for decades.
So it’s good news that once the new ‘no-fault’ law is implemented, couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage by proving fault. Spouses will also no longer have to be in agreement to end their relationship, which prevents anyone from refusing a divorce if their spouse wants one. Separating couples will also no longer have to wait years to formalise the process which will allow ‘transitioning’ families to begin to function efficiently again more quickly once co-parenting plans are in place.
The new laws will include a minimum time frame of six months from the petition stage to a marriage being ended, allowing couples to reflect on their decision and providing them an opportunity to turn back.
Many more parents who are experiencing their divorce or separation are now recognising the importance of adopting a more mindful, strategic approach to the process from the earliest stages. In seeking to enhance their understanding of family breakdown, they gain valuable insights, not only into their own thoughts, feelings, responses and behaviours, but those of their precious children. This enables them to minimise the conflict, gain new perspectives and constructively navigate the complex and varied co-parenting issues that arise. Ultimately this approach aims to provide more positive support for the whole family.
Nicola Withycombe is Co-Founder & Director of not-for-profit organisation Kids Come First
Kids Come First® is a Community Interest Company dedicated to delivering unique, customised, child-focused support and training suitable for all separating parents. Founded in 2015 by two family therapy and mediation professionals we provide specialist advice and expert guidance on successful co-parenting strategies.
www.kidscomefirstuk.co.uk / email email@example.com