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Is divorce just too easy? Kirsty Morbey comments

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio 5 Live last week, Senior Family Division Judge Sir Paul Coleridge said that obtaining a divorce is easier than obtaining a driving licence. His view was that there is no longer any stigma attached to divorce and that the high level of divorce was having a detrimental effect upon the whole of society.

He warned that an estimated 3.8 million children are caught up in the family justice system and that family breakdown not only effects the family in question, but then ripples out to the local community, schools and then into the wider community. His view was that the high rate of family breakdown was a problem that society was failing to face up to, but that it was a problem that needs to be tackled.

The Judge also felt that some of the blame lay with changing social attitudes over the last 50 years, with more of an acceptance of cohabitation and having children outside of marriage. This is then coupled with the fact that the rate of family breakdown among unmarried couples is far higher than the rate for married couples.

Therefore, although the Judge is saying that divorce is easy, it is statistically proven that parents are far more likely to stay together until the child’s 16th birthday if they are married, than if they are not. Statistics show that the divorce rate is in fact declining, but despite the decline, it is still running at 45%. Sir Paul commented that, "divorce is easy in the sense that obtaining a divorce is simpler than getting a driving licence. It’s a form-filling exercise and you’ll get a divorce in six weeks if everyone agrees."

If you compare this simple analogy to the process of learning to drive, for example, a series of expensive lessons, study sessions learning the theory and then a theory and practical test, then divorce does appear to be simpler. However, in my experience most divorces are far from simple. What the Judge seems to be forgetting is the emotional consequences to the parties involved. Even in the most simple of divorces, there is still the fact that the parties have got to come to terms with the reality that they will be a single person again.

In my view the actual divorce process should be as simple as possible. It is usually the case that matrimonial matters become complicated by issues other than the actual process. In my experience if the actual process itself is simple then at least a lay person can feel somewhat in control of what is happening to their life. If the process was difficult and complicated then it could well make an already emotionally charged process even harder.

Unfortunately, relationship breakdown leading to separation and divorce is a fact of modern life. Therefore, as a family lawyer I see it as my responsibility, not to deal with the endemic cause of the issue, but to provide support and highly skilled assistance to guide my client to the most successful outcome possible.

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