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Good Divorce Week 2018

Running from the 26th to the 30th of November 2018, Good Divorce Week, Resolution’s 7th annual awareness campaign, focuses on how divorcing/separating parents can limit the detrimental impact conflict has on their children. Here’s everything you need to know about it – and how you can help campaign for changes to family law that will make divorces kinder and less traumatic for children…

About Resolution

Formerly called the SFLA (Solicitors Family Law Association), Resolution is a professional organisation of 6,500 English and Welsh family lawyers & other related professionals who believe in a non-confrontational, constructive approach to matters of family law and actively campaign for improvements to our current system of family justice.

Supporting family lawyers’ development through regional & national training programmes, publications, good practice guides and its accreditation scheme, this organisation also trains/accredits mediators. It is also the only body within England & Wales that provides collaborative lawyers with both training & support.

The keystone of Resolution membership is compliance with the Code of Practice. Setting out the widely recognised principles of a constructive, non-confrontational approach to matters of family law, this code:

  • Requires family lawyers to approach each other in a constructive, civilised manner and encourage clients to put aside their differences and work on reaching fair agreements.
  • Was adopted by the Law Society ads good, recommended practice for family lawyers.

Divorces are always devastating, but there is a better way for all concerned. Unfortunately, current family law makes it all but impossible for divorcing couples to avoid conflict.

Current Divorce Law

According to current divorce laws, couples wanting to file for divorce must either have been separated for 2 years with (or 5 years without) mutual consent or divorce on grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery.  Before going any further, let’s take a brief look at some divorce facts for England & Wales:

  • In England & Wales, there are more than 100,000 divorces every year. (ONS 2018)
  • The most commonly cited Fact is behaviour, which is used for 52& of opposite-sex divorces and 83% and 73% of same-sex divorces between women and men respectively. . (ONS 2018
  • In England & Wales, 60% of divorces in 2015 were granted on grounds of behaviour and adultery. In Scotland, where family laws are different, just 6 to 7% of divorces were granted on these grounds. (Finding Fault 2017)
  • According to a national opinion survey, just 29% of respondents to fault-based divorces said the Fact used closely matched the separation’s reason. (Finding Fault 2017)
  • Evidence demonstrates that fault, which is often associated with marriages that are shorter, facilitates ‘quick & easy’ exits from marriages.  (Finding Fault 2017)

According to a 2018 Resolution survey  looking into how Resolution members feel about current divorce laws:

  • 90% state current law makes reducing conflict between ex-spouses/partners harder
  • 67% state current law makes reaching agreements harder for separating parents
  • 80% feel introducing ‘no fault divorce’ would assist separating couples in reaching out of court agreements

The long-term effects of conflict on children can be serious. According to studies, it is often not the separation/divorce proper that has a detrimental impact on the well-being of children, but the conflict stemming from it. The ‘blame game’ the necessity to prove fault under current law creates can have extremely serious consequences on both separating couples and their children.

Young People and Divorce

A 2015 ComRes survey among 14 to 22 year-olds who experienced family break-ups revealed that:

  • 82% of young people would prefer their parents to separate if they were unhappy
  • Over 60% felt their parents did not ensure they (the children) were part of their divorce/separation’s decision-making process
  • 50% indicated that they were not given a say in where/with which parent they would live
  • 88% agreed in the importance of ensuring children are not made to feel that they must choose between their parents
  • Approximately 50% admitted that they did not understand what was going on during their parents’ divorce/separation
  • 19% agreed they sometimes felt everything was their fault

Research carried out by Resolution did, however, suggest that separations were handled well by parents, with 50% of children/young people agreeing that their needs were put first by their parents.

So, how does conflict during their parents’ separation/divorce affect 14 to 22-year-olds? A  ComRes surveyin 2014 revealed that:

  • 19% stated their exam results were not what they had hoped for
  • 65% stated the separation/divorce affected their GCSE exam results
  • 44% stated the separation/divorce affected their A-levels
  • 24% they struggled with the completion of homework, assignments or essays
  • 11% stated they got into more trouble at university, college or school, with 12% admitting to skipping lessons
  • 28% stated they started eating less/more than before their parents’ separation/divorce
  • 14% admitted to starting to drink or drinking more alcohol than before the divorce/separation
  • 13% confessed to their parents’ break-up resulting in them experimenting/considering experimenting with drugs
  • 32% stated one of their parents attempted to influence them against/alienate them from the other
  • 27% stated their parents attempted to embroil them in their dispute
  • 19% stated the divorce/separation resulted in them completely losing contact with grandparents (one or more)

Reforms removing blame from the divorce process are clearly urgently needed to reduce the negative impact of conflict on children.

The Good Divorce Week Campaign

A poll carried out this week by YouGov revealed that 79% of the UK’s population agree that divorce/separation-related conflict can have a negative impact on the mental health of children. The poll was carried out as part of Good Divorce Week. Initiated by Resolution, of which we are members, this campaign highlights ways for parents to separate in a manner that minimises conflict and subsequently reduces the impact of conflict on children.

As family lawyers working in Kingston Upon Thames, we here at Rose & Rose regularly help separating/divorcing parents who are, after all, going through one of life’s most emotionally traumatic experiences possible to put their children’s best interest first. While everybody wants this, support is often needed for parents to do this.

The efforts of both parents and professionals are, however, hampered by current divorce law, which makes it necessary for blame to be assigned – and as we stated earlier, assigning blame further exacerbates conflict.

Resolution is therefore also calling on the UK’s government to finally make good on the promise to institute no fault divorce as quickly as possible this week. Divorce will never be easy, but with assistance from professionals committed to Resolution’s approach and your support, we can make the process kinder and easier, especially for children.

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