Keeping kids first helps minimise fallout from family breakdown

A local family lawyer is campaigning for a change in the law to reduce the fallout from divorce on children

A family lawyer is campaigning for a change in the law to reduce the fallout from divorce on children, after figures released this week revealed the impact of conflict between separating parents.

In a new poll, 79% of the population agreed conflict from divorce or separation can affect negatively children’s mental health, a figure rising to 87% among those who experienced their parents’ divorce as children. 77% said conflict could affect children’s academic performance and a further two-thirds felt social interactions and the ability to form healthy romantic relationships were also jeopardised.

Emma Collins, partner in the family law team at national law firm Weightmans made the calls as part of a national Good Divorce Week that is being led by Resolution, who campaign for a fairer family justice system and commissioned the new YouGov poll.

Good Divorce Week aims to provide practical help, highlighting ways for separating parents to put their children’s needs first, as well as calling on government to urgently remove blame from the divorce process.

As 200,000 people divorce each year in England and Wales, an overwhelming 79% of the public support measures that would remove blame from the divorce process, with 71% believing change is urgently needed to reduce the negative impact on children.

Emma explained that while most parents she works with want to keep a child’s best interest at the forefront, the current fault-based divorce system can make this a challenge.

She said:

“Current divorce law is out of date with the times we live in. As a result, family lawyers often work to find constructive ways of moving cases forward in spite of the law, rather than with its assistance.

“Each day I work with separating parents to help them resolve their own issues in a way that provides a fair outcome to everyone in the family especially any children. But often, even with the most amicable break up, the requirement to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage can create unnecessarily conflict that can threaten the entire process.

“Currently, unless a couple can prove they’ve been separated for 2 years with consent or 5 years without, the only way to get a divorce is to attribute blame. Around 60% of divorces in England and Wales are based on fault, compared with only 6-7% in Scotland where the law is different.

“Many couples are surprised that they cannot just cite irreconcilable differences or say they’ve grown apart. With 90% of professionals saying current law makes it harder to reduce conflict between exes, Resolution has been campaigning for decades to remove blame from the divorce process. Evidence shows the impact of conflict stemming from the requirement to blame can have a detrimental effect on the couple and any children they may have.

“Reform to bring the law in line with society and day to day legal practice is long overdue.”
 

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