End of the blame game – but what if they are to blame?

Much has been made about the new “no-fault” divorces which can be applied for, following a huge change in the existing law, from 6 April 2022. Many family lawyers have long supported campaigns to make these alterations to reflect what we hear back from our clients, which is that they often don’t want to file a petition detailing each and every ugly aspect of their spouse’s behaviour to secure a divorce, or to cite a subsequent relationship as the adulterous cause.

It is noted, however, that in recent weeks there have been commentators talking about how some people feel the need to have an official finger point of blame at their spouse, and that it is wrong to take this away. The suggestion is that citing behaviour or adultery in a divorce petition can be a cathartic exercise.

In some ways I have sympathy with this view. But the sympathy ends when I think of the bills these people have faced over the years. That is not catharsis. Look, break-ups are hard at best, gut-wrenching and devastating at worst. Until now the manner in which the law was crafted ensured that those feelings were actually used to start the legal process. The sensible family lawyer was then tasked with cooling those feelings and advising that the court would not take them into account when dealing with the children or the finances. That’s just terribly confusing and, to a person going through what is possibly the worst and most emotionally tumultuous time of their life, really quite disorientating. It is just unhelpful to wind people (already dealing with huge and possibly overwhelming emotions) up before they are to sit down and sensibly consider the far more important issues of children and finances.

Essentially, the old way created an incredibly bad tone, often pushing the respondent into a defensive state of mind and began the whole process on an adversarial basis. The new way? Well, I won’t suggest that there will be no conflict because, of course, there will still be in some cases. However, it will no longer be necessary to pick at the open wounds of a relationship breakdown in order to harvest information to start a legal process. And that cannot be anything but good.

– Chartered Legal Executive, Katie Nightingale