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Lorraine Harvey discusses divorce trends

Lorraine Harvey discusses divorce trends
Divorce has become increasingly common across the UK over the course of the last 12 months.

That is according to Lorraine Harvey, a principal lawyer (partner) here at RJW Slater and Gordon, who believes that despite the fact Britain remains stuck in a double-dip recession, more people are beginning proceedings to bring their marriage to an end.

What have UK divorce trends been like in recent years?

Following the onset of the global economic slump in 2008, statistics show that the number of divorces taking place in the UK went down as the costs associated with the separation process put people off.

Indeed, Lorraine noted that the financial crisis resulted in a downturn in such family law cases, but added that this trend has begun to reverse in the last year or so, as we at RJW have "certainly" seen an increase in divorce rates in this period.

"We have been particularly busy," our family law team leader explained.

In terms of regional differences in divorce figures, Lorraine said  it is difficult to compare in terms of which areas of the nation separation is more common, but she did indicate that the north-west of England is experiencing an upturn in activity.

"We have quite a big team in Manchester city centre and we are all extremely busy with divorce clients," she noted .

Lorraine went on to say that city centres usually have slightly different trends in terms of divorce than other areas, because such regions tend to contain "professionals or people starting out that are not necessarily ... married, but people who might be setting up home or cohabiting with their partners".

"It's not just people getting married that might be on the decline, it might be people taking the jump and setting up home together - people are a little bit more cautious than they used to be," she added.

Are people now looking for other options other than divorce?

In recent years, several other options aside from divorce have become available to people going through marital difficulties.

For instance, couples who have children may prefer to opt for a separation agreement due to this process generally making it easier to sort out disputes relating to custody.

Lorraine explained that as members of Resolution - which exists to provide constructive and non-confrontational solutions to family law issues - RJW Slater Gordon will always refer anyone going through a marriage breakdown to either Relate or professional relationship guidance before making any decisions.
"Some do say they are way past that and there is no way they are going to be able to resolve the marriage. Some people take the advice, go through some counselling and mediation and then may or may not come back," she stated.

Lorraine went on to say separating from a partner is not as simple as it was in days gone by because it is generally impossible to simply move out of the marital home and rent a property for six to 12 months because of the burden of the mortgage and the fact real incomes have declined in recent years.

How has last year's legislative change affected children involved in divorce disputes?

In 2011, the UK's family law system changed in order to improve conditions for children involved in marital disputes.

As such, legal professionals now have to recommend any divorce clients to go to mediation before making any final decision on the detail of a legal separation.

Lorraine explained that prior to issuing court proceedings, the judge must be satisfied that mediation has been attempted as it is thought this will help keep more cases out of the courts for the sake of any children involved.

"It doesn't always work, I am finding that about 50 per cent of cases will be resolved through mediation, but with the other 50 per cent you do end up in court," she added.