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Divorce law blog

Conscious Uncoupling - the new way to separate?

12/11/2015   By: Jane Booth

It was splashed all over the press headlines when Gwyneth Paltrow announced that she and Chris Martin were “consciously uncoupling”, but what does it actually mean and is there any merit in the approach?

Katherine Woodward Thomas, the psychotherapist who coined the term, says that “the aim is to negotiate the end of a romantic relationship with goodwill and respect; in a way that enriches rather than wrecks lives”. The aim, she says, is to continue to deal with matters as if you are still one family. She says that this helps to put the children first by minimising conflict and supporting the child’s relationship with the other parent.

No Fault Divorce

One way to potentially help this process in terms of legal reforms could be by removing fault-based options from the divorce process . Conservative MP Richard Bacon introduced a 10 minute rule Bill last month that proposes a no fault option where both of the couple want it, but alongside the existing options. Campaigning family law organisation Resolution would go further than this and have only one option, which would be one or both of the couple saying that they thought the marriage had broken down and if one or both still felt the same after 6 months the divorce would go through.
Resolution research has revealed that 52% of divorce petitions were based on one of the fault options of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. Worryingly, of these, 27% of divorcing couples admitted that the allegations of fault were untrue. They just wanted to get the divorce through.

The purpose behind the legislation would not be to make divorce easier but rather to remove unnecessary allegations which increase animosity. This would remove a hurdle for a separating couple to overcome and perhaps assist with putting the children first by minimising conflict.

Non-court Dispute Resolution

Non-court options for resolving issues in relation to divorce, finances and children are becoming increasingly popular. Mediation and Collaborative law both endeavour to maintain relationships and to deal with things in a constructive way. There are also more opportunities for the voice(s) of the child(ren) to be heard and for greater flexibility to tailor matters to that particular family.

Regardless of what you might think about the term “conscious uncoupling” there has been a move towards resolving matters amicably and promoting the needs of the children using non-court dispute resolution methods. It is widely accepted that putting children first and preserving relationships will benefit the family as a whole going forward.

Jane Booth

Family Law Associate

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