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Restored Lives launches campaign to reduce divorce process damage

change UK divorce process

Photo by John Middelkoop on Unsplash

This January, to coincide with “divorce day” when solicitors typically receive a peak in requests for divorce petitions, Restored Lives is starting a campaign that calls for changes to the divorce process. The aim is to reduce the damage relationship breakdown does to children, individuals and society as a whole.

In our newly created Change.org campaign, we are calling for the Government to set in place 6 changes that will reduce the conflict, cost and the harm the current process creates.

Why is a change needed?

Having spent over 25 years supporting thousands of divorcees, Restored Lives has seen a disheartening trend. As couples start to engage with the separation process to formalise arrangements for their children and finances the conflict increases, effective communication falters and stress rises. Even where couples have been amicable it is common to see that as soon as solicitors become involved, the situation gets worse.

Here are some comments we have received from some of those we have supported that express this situation.

“I have 2 children. My experience was that the legal process encouraged what could have been a straightforward separation to become a long and confrontational dispute over a period of 2 years with lasting effects on our family relationships and our ability to co-parent well.” Karen

“The present process sets up families for failure. The court process is long, drawn-out and shrouded in secrecy i.e I have been to court 25 times 80% of the time defending against spurious false allegations the other 20% trying to get an enforcement order to see them. Ex-partners are able to exploit the situation and can turn an “ex-husband/wife” very easily into an ex-parent. Almost a year and £80,000 on, I’m broke and yet to see my children. The legal process needs reform urgently or there’s no hope for our children and the vicious cycle continues creating damaged people who then perpetuate failed marriages.” Leslie

“By the time I got to court my ex had prevented me from seeing the children for over a year but the judge ruled that because of the hiatus of contact I should write to them as a “first step”. Now I have no way of knowing if the children even receive my letters. I am trying to come to terms with the painful reality that I may not see them until they are old enough to seek me out on their own. I cannot afford any more court proceedings, so my options are completely exhausted.” Sam

“I am a divorced child, of divided, uncertain background. Within this division I – supposed fruit of their love – no longer exist. It happened nearly forty years ago, yet to me, nothing is sadder than my parents’ divorce.”Sylvia

This is too much to bear – we feel we must campaign for change alongside the work we are doing to support people through this broken process. With 2.2 million adults and around 2.8 million children in the UK impacted by divorce over the last 10 years means that these stories are reflected across every community in the country.

What are we campaigning for?

There are common issues that arise as couples follow the current process and we have been working with experts in the field to identify key actions that could be taken to address these issues.

Currently, the process pits separating couples against each other with little or no publicly available information to guide them on a sensible or likely basis for separation creating damaging unrealistic expectations. If legal representation is brought in, then lawyers are incentivised to “win” for their individual client rather reach a win-win outcome for all parties or consider the best outcome for any children involved. This creates more conflict in an already fragile situation with an incredibly expensive process where children’s voices are rarely heard.

Our Change.org campaign is calling for the following changes:

  1. A new process that encourages communications between a couple and creates a positive structure at every stage for resolving issues successfully.
  2. We want experts to create a framework that makes it clear from the outset what a fair separation looks like both in terms of finances, property and arrangements for children so that everyone enters into the process with realistic expectations.
  3. Arrangements for children need to be resolved outside the court system in a timely manner. The needs of children must be at the heart of this process and parents being supported to reduce damaging parental conflict and build amicable and successful co-parenting arrangements.
  4. The creation of a co-ordinated holistic support network including therapists, parenting specialists, mediators and legal services that includes addressing the emotional wellbeing of separating couples and their children.
  5. A cost-effective process for resolving legal matters relating to divorce and arrangements for children that is easily accessible to all.
  6. A coordinated Government approach starting with the appointment of a Family Lead at the heart of Government who will investigate all the issues and form a coordinated response.

If this resonates with you and you would like to join our campaign please sign the petition at Change.org