It's Family Dispute Resolution week this week, the Daily Mail is full of stories about the Co-op and their cheap divorces and the Telegraph is talking of a survey in which 13% of people contemplate divorce and then have stepped back from the brink.
What does this all mean? Well, I think it means that if there ever was any doubt about it, divorce and its consequences are now in our everyday thinking. At last. Years ago, divorce was a word spoken quietly, like the word cancer was. It was shameful and embarrassing. If it had to happen, it was clandestine like an affair and it was incredibly hard to achieve. Now, it is out in the open, discussed, debated and endlessly written about. From celebrities to common folk, divorce is now part of our DNA, and part of our societal make up.
As divorce has proliferated so have the ways of dealing with it. From legal innovation to emotional support, and an internet presence, there are endless ways of looking at and thinking about divorce. Does any of this make it any easier, less traumatic, difficult or painful? Well, I think that in some ways it does. The fact that Family Dispute Resolution Week is here to discuss alternatives to litigious hostile polarisation within the legal process is a good thing. The growth of collaborative law and mediation as viable, solid ways of breaking down the assets in a marriage and dealing with its impact for children is a thousand times better than the days of detectives in macs proving adultery or the days of issuing a divorce petition as the start of an always contested court hearing. We have come a long way. Even the emotional support, words hitherto unspoken as it was never thought that support should even enter the equation, is a thousand times better than before. Previously, people had to suffer silently, behind closed doors. Now we have support groups, individual counselling, chat forums, books etc etc. Divorce is properly on the map. That is not to say, that the impact of divorce is any less painful but at least it is acknowledged and catered for and therefore people going through it do not feel like social pariahs or wicked people.
The marriage campaigners have banged on for years about no fault divorces making it too easy to give up on marriage. They are still campaigning that for those unable to afford costly lawyers, a divorce obtained through the C0-OP will mean people will jump out of their marriages at the drop of a hat. I don't think so. Divorce is more prevalent because it's easier. It's more prevalent because people don't have to spend their lives being unhappy. People have a choice and although divorce doesn't mean that life will be blissful afterwards it does mean that people have a freedom that they didn't have before. No-one disputes that marriage isn't better than divorce, that children are better brought up in a secure family than not. These arguments are not either or. Divorce is painful and people who embark upon it have given it a lot of thought or else are on the receiving end and have no choice as their partner has left. Let's not give them a hard time. Let's make it more comfortable for them and support them instead of deriding them. We as a society would be better off for it.
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