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20/10/2017 By: Nigel Shepherd
2017 really seems to have been the year of the divorce. Firstly, the gathering momentum behind Resolution’s “no fault” divorce campaign, then judgments in the divorce case of Mr and Mrs Owens and now new divorce statistics from the ONS showing that divorces are up 5.8% on 2015.
What do the latest statistics really tell us though? Well, although divorces (including same-sex divorces) are both higher than they were last year, the numbers are still nowhere near the peak in 2003 when they were over 150,000. A key factor in the overall drop during this period is no doubt that more couples are choosing to live together rather than marry – cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK .
The statistics also don’t tell us anything about how people feel about going through a divorce, in particular the need to apportion blame at the divorce stage. The only way to divorce without apportioning blame is to separate for at least two years. For many, waiting two years to sort out their finances rules out this option. This means that they must record details either of their partner’s adultery or their unreasonable behaviour in order to proceed with the divorce, making an already difficult and distressing process even harder. This seems particularly pointless given that the reasons for divorce make no difference to any financial settlement or children arrangement – they are simply to allow the divorce to proceed to the next stage. Resolution is campaigning for changes to the current divorce laws to remove the blame, making it easier for people to manage their separation with as little conflict and stress as possible and reducing the likelihood they will end up in court.
2018 may bring some changes. With Mrs Owens’ case due to be heard in the Supreme Court in the Spring (with Mills & Reeve acting pro bono on behalf of Resolution in intervening), and an increasingly vocal lobby demanding reform, we can only hope that the government takes note and acts to end the blame game.