Divorce law must be reformed to stop confusing messages being sent to families and the myth of American TV series informing their personal decisions – or at least that’s what I think.
This is my first blog for Woolley & Co, having just joined from a well-known firm in Birmingham, so I thought I would announce my arrival with a bit of volume! In my opinion, a no fault divorce would help make divorce less confrontational and less stressful for a lot of people. It would be a big thing for this country. How many times do we have to explain to clients they will have to use unreasonable behaviour as a ground for divorce, and they will have to give examples. They see it as slating the other person. Now some people may want to do this, stick the knife in and get carried away, creating additional friction. Others may not want to do it at all but are forced to by the process, again creating avoidable friction.
It’s a very confusing message for clients: we advocate a non-confrontational approach to divorce and yet they often have to use unreasonable behaviour as a ground for the split and list the specific reasons. This is made more difficult because behaviour is subjective, so what one person may think is intolerable, others may look at and say: “Is that it?” For instance, there was the story in the news this week about a wife (allegedly) filing for divorce because her husband didn’t love the film Frozen as much as her. It does seem pretty extreme to me but, to her, it obviously carried a lot more weight.
I have worked in family law for almost 20 years. During that time, I have gained a lot of experience in all aspects of the divorce process but perhaps have come to specialise more on the financial side of things in recent years, in particular cases with high net worth. However, the court cannot look at the finances and any potential settlement without there being a divorce petition so, at the moment, this pantomime has to happen. People watch a lot of American TV and expect there to be a simple “irreconcilable differences” option here but that is simply not the case. It is time we put that right.
It sounds a cliché but I always wanted to work in the legal sector because I wanted to help people. Family law is a unique area and I very quickly decided this is where I wanted to specialise. The introduction of a no fault divorce would help us help more families more effectively.
My parents went through a divorce when I was about 10 and that had a deep effect on me. It gives me a certain understanding when clients say that their children are behaving in a certain way. I can relate and say: “This is how I behaved.”
People going through divorce really are on an emotional journey. We see people at their lowest and then, as they progress, getting back to themselves and then starting a new life. I have now joined a firm where I think I can do this more effectively than ever before – and I am loving it so far! I have my own family with a young daughter and am able to get a better work/life balance that allows me to devote time to my family while also work around the needs of clients rather than keeping a nine-to-five office.
We are working hard to make divorce better for our clients. A relatively obvious change to the law could make it better for many more families already going through difficult times.
Family lawyer, Birmingham