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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

There are no right answers on divorce


It is interesting how the same issue can provoke two completely different views. Ask Murdoch and Brooks, or Cameron and Miliband for that matter. Because hacking has eclipsed almost everything else in the news for the past week, some other issues have suffered from a lack of coverage as a result. The famine in Somalia is one. The badger cull is another.

I would have expected comments by leading judge Sir Paul Coleridge to have grabbed a few more headlines (not for the first time) too, after he claimed that getting a divorce was easier than getting a driving licence. And also some interesting findings in a survey for a website called Illicit Encounters (I am not sure such a site should be allowed to exist really), suggesting fewer people were getting divorced because it is difficult in the current climate, to claim a few more column inches. Either way, the two appear to come at the issue of divorce – and how easy or hard it is to get one – from completely different, conflicting, viewpoints. Isn’t this always the case?

No stranger to headlines, Sir Paul suggested people need to "re-educate" themselves about the value of stable relationships for the good of the whole of society. He made the point that everyone is affected by family breakdown, with an estimated 3.8 million children caught up in the family justice system and that this could be blamed on social changes over the last 50 years, and that it is now easier to obtain a divorce than a driving licence. Now I remember my driving test being no easy ride, the cost of lessons is excessive and the additional theory test that didn’t exist in my day adds in an extra hurdle. But still, I can see the analogy. The divorce system was streamlined in the late 1980s/early 90s to basically bring it down to a series of forms that needed to be filed and declarations that needed to be made. That is over-simplifying slightly but at the end of the day, the divorce is the legal end of  a marriage agreement between a couple. Sorting out the finance and everything else is not within the remit of the actual divorce in its purest sense.

He also makes the point that with more people living out of wedlock, there is not the commitment there to work at a relationship and people are very quick to drop a partnership if they feel it is simply too much like hard work. So I guess I would agree with Sir Paul.

But then take the other story I mentioned. Divorce is at a 40-year-low a report in the Daily Mail suggested, because people were finding it harder to divorce in the current economic climate. To sever the legal bonds of marriage that exist would leave them out of pocket and in some cases unable to cope on their own. And, you see, I kind of agree with that too. I have anecdotal evidence of couples being forced to stay together because they cannot afford to go their separate ways and several other surveys have said the same thing. You could argue that this is a social problem in a recession rather than it specifically being more difficult to divorce, but if it were not for the bonds of marriage and the divorce process, surely it would ease the pressure?

So two conflicting stories, both of which I agree with and believe to be true. I’ve said it before – maybe I should be a politician?

Andrew Woolley
Family Solicitor

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