Recent reforms encouraging couples to take divorce out of court and deal with relationship disputes in regional centres via mediation have come under fire by Ann Widdecombe, who has criticised the proposal as making ‘a nonsense of marriage.’ Widdecombe believes that ‘the state should send out much stronger signals on support for marriage’, suggesting that separation has become as meaningless as ‘discarding an old carrier bag.’
Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, called for the changes in order to relieve stress and delays in the family courts, especially in the case of uncontested divorces that do not involve children. The reforms aim to encourage more couples using mediation and other out of court alternatives, which tend to be less combative than court divorce, paving the way for the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce without the need to cite unreasonable behaviour.
Suzanne Moore recently spoke out against Widdecombe’s opinions in the Guardian, stating that, ‘Divorce is rarely simple. Feelings are complex, and never divided fairly or equally when a relationship ends. The divvying up of children and home is fraught, but this is a separate thing to the legal declaration of the end of a marriage. Indeed, it is often only through the process of divorce itself that many begin to understand that, whatever they intended it to be, marriage is a serious legal contract based on property. Therein so much conflict lies.
‘Anything that removes the adversarial nature of divorce is good for our emotional health, if not for the lifestyles of some lawyers.’
Frances Lindsay, family lawyer, arbitrator and mediator-solicitor at Frances Lindsay & Co commented:
‘It is high time that the UK offered the option of no fault divorce across the board, as is the norm in many countries. There should be no need to assign blame for the breakdown of a relationship; starting the divorce process by pointing a finger at the other party makes an already difficult situation worse.
‘I believe we should trust people with their relationships. It’s not about making divorce easier or marriage more difficult. If two grown up people decide they no longer wish to be married then there should be a simple mechanism to bring that marriage to an end. The various methods of out of court divorce that are currently available – mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law – include safeguards to ensure that children are properly provided for and financial settlements are fair and reasonable, just as they are in a court divorce. The same would surely be true of no-fault divorce if it were introduced, too.’
For more advice on alternatives to court and working through relationship disputes for a positive outcome, get in touch with the family law team at Frances Lindsay & Co by visiting www.franceslindsay.co.uk or calling us on 01628 634667.arbitration solicitor Maidenhead, collaborative family law Windsor, divorce solicitor Thames Valley, mediation solicitor Beaconsfield, no fault divorce, out of court divorce