Today has been dubbed ‘Divorce Day,’ notoriously the first working Monday after the New Year when divorce lawyers are said to see a rise in new enquiries for legal advice surrounding their marital or family problems.
This increase is thought to be a result of an increase in relationship breakdowns over the Christmas period due to factors ranging from a stressful holiday period, money troubles and, during Covid, work at home guidance and social restrictions.
However, this year stands to herald a new era in relation to how clients can be advised in relation to and apply for a divorce.
According to Charlotte Leyshon, the founder of Cardiff-based Lux Family Law, there will be a much needed overhaul of the divorce process from April that will allow couples in the UK, for the first time ever, to divorce without needing to cite blame.
Ms Leyshon said: “Under the present system for a couple to divorce immediately they must either cite the unreasonable behaviour of their spouse or adultery. This adversarial approach really does start the process off on the most acrimonious of footing and, for many couples, is not how they wish to dissolve their marriage. Under the new system it will be possible for a couple to jointly apply for a divorce as well as one spouse to solely apply against the other. This change allows couples who divorce amicably to make a joint decision and to take a joint step to end the marriage in a unified and dignified way.”
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Ms Leyson said these changes will make a huge difference to how couples enter their futures individually and will have a positive impact on their ability to co-parent.
For example, it will no longer be possible to defend a divorce which will remove the ability of one spouse to try to prevent a divorce taking place. Very often one abusive or controlling spouse can abuse the current system by defending a divorce and causing their spouse significant legal fees and the emotional consequences of litigious wrangling.
As a result, it is expected that couples may wait until these changes are in place later this year before they decide to end their marriage and according to Ms Leyshon, Lux Family Law is already taking this into consideration with their cases.
“We are advising any new clients who approach us over the next few months that they may wish to wait before issuing divorce proceedings as the new system which comes in to force in April 2022 may be a kinder and more palatable process for them if there is no urgent need to get divorced straight away. It will certainly change our initial advice to clients and the focus can now be on resolving the couple’s finances or issues in connection with their children from the off.”
Cardiff-based family lawyer, Tom Allen of Carbon Law Partners, said: “The current divorce law is approaching 50 years old and an overhaul was long overdue. For most people financial negotiations can be the most complex aspect of a divorce rather than the actual dissolution of the marriage itself however under the present system, in certain circumstances, one party has to start the divorce by effectively “pointing the finger” and attributing blame for the breakdown of the marriage onto the other spouse.
“This just adds unnecessary angst and can set the case off on the wrong footing at a time where it’s in both parties’ best interests to minimise the scope for dispute rather than enflame it prior to starting the financial negotiations. Any change in the law that can lead to a move away from the adversarial approach should be welcomed.”
Lux Family Law was launched Divorce Day in 2018. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and has a significant client base in London with several cases being heard in the High Court. It is currently involved in a case before Mr Justice Mostyn that is likely to result in significant guidance being given in high net worth financial remedy proceedings.