The debate around no fault divorce has been highlighted recently by the case of Tini Owens, a woman who claimed she was trapped in an unhappy marriage but was denied an appeal for divorce based on her husbands behaviour. Under the current family law system petitioners must choose from five facts to support the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably with the most common being ‘behaviour’, but even this requires proof and for the respondent to accept ‘blame’. For those in unhappy marriages, with no clear or provable reason for wanting to separate, the need to assign fault during divorce often causes additional and unnecessary animosity, and there is increasing pressure to implement a ‘no-fault’ option.
On the subject of happiness, a recent survey suggests that women are happier than men following separation, with over half of women (53%) stating they are ‘much happier’ post-divorce compared to a third of men (32%). The average age of the 1,060 survey respondents was 54, which supports the reasoning behind growing numbers of older divorcees wherein women in particular make the decision to separate post-retirement, or once their children are grown up, possible after having put up with unsatisfactory marriages for many years. Couples with children were noted to take much longer than childless couples to come to the decision to divorce, reinforcing the idea that it’s best to stay together for the kids, despite research suggesting that this is not always best for the well-being of children. The stigma around divorce is much less than it was even a few decades ago (86% of respondents agreed that separation was nothing to be ashamed of), and the implementation of ‘no fault’ divorce would also help to reduce feelings of failure or embarrassment when it comes to calling it quits.
According to the survey, women were more likely to use positive words such as ‘celebration’, ‘excitement’, and ‘glad’ about their divorce, while men focused more on ‘failure’ and ‘disappointment’. Interestingly, 61% of women said they were happier single, and were not interested in looking for a new relationship after separation, compared to 47% of men, who were quicker to begin dating after divorce, and 30% more likely to enter into a new relationship.
The reason for relationship breakdown is never simple, and happiness is not easily quantifiable, but being in an unfulfilling marriage is clearly a valid reason for wanting to go your separate ways, even if it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Mutual unhappiness was the second most popular cause of divorce, according to the survey, and almost half (49%) of survey respondents claimed that they decided to separate because one of them had ‘changed’ as a person, with 14% admitting that it was them. Other reasons included one spouse wanting to be with someone else (regardless of whether infidelity was involved), or simply a case of the ‘seven-year itch’, with almost a third of respondents deciding to split after more than five years together.
Whatever your reasons for divorce, staying in an unhappy marriage should not be something couples are forced to do, and many working in family law would welcome the option for no-fault divorce to help speed up the process, reduce costs, and minimise antagonism between separating couples. For now, however, your best options are to choose an out-of-court cooperative approach such as mediation, arbitration or collaborative family law, in which you work together with your ex and a professional mediator, arbitrator or solicitor to come to a positive solution. For more information on these methods of dispute resolution, or to speak to an experienced family lawyer about your situation, get in touch with us at www.franceslindsay.co.uk. We are based in the Thames Valley and offer FREE 45-minute consultations to discuss your circumstances and requirements with a down-to-earth, friendly family law solicitor. Let us take the weight off your shoulders and focus on re-finding your happiness.