How Do Divorces Work Nowadays?

Janine Hutson, Associate Solicitor in the divorce and family law team at Harrison Drury, here explores the latest trends in divorce law and what these could mean for the legal profession.

Calls for a no-fault divorce

Current English and Welsh law states you must prove that the grounds for divorce fit into one of five options; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent or, five years’ separation without consent.

The problem arises for us, as divorce lawyers, when the reason for divorce doesn’t fall into these categories. The limited options force couples into playing the blame game and proceedings can rapidly become acrimonious and complicated.

It’s argued that the need for a no-fault law, so people can divorce without evidence of blame, will encourage spouses to separate amicably, increasing the number of people heading to mediation and therefore allowing us to truly act within the best interests of our clients.

What will Brexit change?

With Brexit comes a whole host of uncertainty as to how many areas of legislation will change and divorce is no exception. Following Brexit, there are a few options as to what could replace the current legislation. The first, a bilateral agreement drawn up to mirror current legislation, meaning no practical change to the way we act on behalf of our parties.

Alternatively, all European countries could be treated just the same as Non-European countries. Decisions on jurisdiction will be based on how closely a family is connected to a country. This could cause unnecessary strain to the parties who must litigate over which country deals with the divorce.

Divorce and social media

As divorce lawyers, we are encountering situations far more frequently where social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are providing evidence that we can use in divorce cases.

With social media being so widely used, and with profiles not being quite as private as people may think, Resolution, a body of family lawyers in England and Wales, advises that a wealth of information can be found about people who use social media regularly. Our private lives may not be quite as private as we believe.

People representing themselves

A study carried out by The Times last year showed that around 40% of people have stopped using lawyers in their divorce, this is largely due to the cuts in legal aid and people going through amicable divorces looking to save money and time.

People who represent themselves in legal battles may not get the outcome that they expect or deserve, it can also mean that the party with representation is forced to take on more of the legal costs and proceedings can also be slowed down due to a lack of legal knowledge.

Alternative forms of dispute resolution

Mediation and Collaborative law are methods of alternate dispute resolution that have gradually become more popular with divorcing couple’s due to their efficient and informal nature.

The main principles of mediation and collaborative law is that couples look to resolve all matters in a series of meetings which are attended by both parties and either their mediator or their Collaboratively-trained lawyers.

Mediation tends to take place without any legal agreement whereas in collaborative law everyone involved, be that a solicitor or a client signs an order to bind them to the process and to honour its principles.

For those who are splitting harmoniously these solutions are completely flexible and inevitably mean that the cases are settled in far shorter time periods. As everyone involved has agreed to resolve the matter away from court, many thousands of pounds can be saved by levelling the playing field when using mediation and collaborative law.

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