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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

The normalisation of divorce and separation


 I listened with interest to a debate on You and Yours on Radio 4 on Tuesday about divorce and separation. The wide-ranging item ably covered a full deck of topics, from children's rights and a review of the current guidelines by Sir Nicholas Wall, to collaborative law and mediation. It is rare for a subject so obviously close to my heart to get so much air time so I have to give a hearty thanks to Radio 4 for highlighting such a swathe of issues. It was obviously promoted by comments made by Sir Nicholas the other week about parents using children as "ammunition" in divorce.

One thing I took away from it was talk of the "normalisation of divorce and separation" - effectively how everyone these days seems happy to accept that divorce is commonplace and to just get on with things.
The point being made was that divorce is not normal and should not be viewed as such. Think of the huge impact it has on families and children in particular. These are things we would not wish on anyone in an ideal world – as I was saying in a recent blog.

I completely agree with this sentiment. Modern society seems to have arrived at a point of acceptance for many things that a few years ago would certainly not have been considered “right”. When it is all around us with celeb break-ups in the papers, soap storylines revolving around love triangles and even The Archers having a couple (Kenton and Kathy!) going through a separation, it is perhaps understandable how people have become immune to the seriousness of the condition.

However, it remains that divorce is not nice and it should not be considered normal. What it is is a reality of modern day life. For our part, I believe those involved in guiding people through the process, such as family lawyers, should do what they can to minimise stress through the process and offer a raft of ancillary services and advice, like pointing clients in the direction of fellow professionals to look at the finances of a settlement, advise on mediation or suggest a role for a coach to play in getting someone’s life back on track. Offering such joined up service is what should be normal but is still sadly lacking in my experience.

Getting a divorce is fairly straightforward. But getting through the process unscathed and in an amicable way with your ex is less easy. Following simple guidelines like avoiding seeking revenge, using your support network and keep the children out of the firing line will help and are among the top tips we give to people to help them through what is a far from normal situation. Do you have some winning advice that you would give to someone to help them through? Please do let me know.

But let’s none of us think that any of this is normal.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce Solicitor


Loading comments...

I believe that mediation is a good idea, if both parties are on equal footing, and they are aware of their respective rights and obligations before signing a binding agreement. ...

By Zachary Riyaz on Monday October 11, 2010

In many states mediation is mandatory, which would seem to make counter-intuitive sense. Nonetheless, in contested divorces it is very valuable. While collaboration is always a less ‘stressful’ alternative to litigation, a proper and experienced mediator is vital to have any chance of meaningful success, as rarely are parties practically on equal footing (emotionally, psychologically and/or financially). That is why they are in “contested” dissolutions instead of joint or co-petitioners simply filing the paperwork….

By James Carson Whedbee Bock on Monday October 11, 2010

I would recommend the couple try mediation before litigation if possible. Reaching an amicable settlement that they devise I think is better for the couple and any children involved….

By Catherine Canade on Tuesday October 12, 2010

Clients may benefit from talking to a Counsellor who is trained to listen and advise them with their emotional distress. The client can speak to a GP to organise counselling sessions which may help to calm the client and to give him/her a peace of mind and be in a better position to reflect on how to proceed with the Divorce and Ancillary Relief Matters.
I explain (1) how a confrontational approach would hinder negotiations and cause costs to increase and (2)the benefits of being able to negotiate a settlement and for this to be embodied into a consent order which can be sent to the court for its approval.
    For me a successful outcome is one where I see the difference my approach to a client’s case has made to the client who may have arrived at my office feeling vulnerable, betrayed and angry and who leaves my office a confident person, reassured of the direction the case is going ,understands the legal procedures that are involved in trying to achieve the outcome , and what he/she hopes to achieve at the end and who goes on to assist with negotiating a settlement that can be embodied into a consent order which receives the courts approval thus preventing the need for the client to attend a contested Hearing.

By Stala Charalambous on Wednesday October 13, 2010

Thank you all for your comments. I certainly think mediation is one of the most useful options available but there is a problem in the UK for now which is an absence of a properly regulated profession of mediators and for that matter a proper definition of what it is—we all think we know! Certainly as a firm we believe we mediate or negotiate 97% of our cases of all types so that attending Court is avoided so we are only talking about a small amount of cases where this will make a difference….

By Andrew Woolley on Thursday October 28, 2010

What do you think?

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