Published in Blog by Andrew Balfour on April 4th 2022
Andrew Balfour, Tavistock Relationships CEO, welcomes the introduction of no-fault divorce as an opportunity to reduce the pain and conflict so often experienced when couples divorce.
“No fault divorce is long overdue and will provide a unique opportunity to reframe our approach to divorce. Traditional divorce relies on the attribution of fault of a party, amplifying the conflict which is already there and putting it at the heart of the process. This increases the negative mental health impact on the couple and any children they have, and makes it difficult for them to act in a thoughtful way.
“The current divorce process makes blame the name of the game - with the law making this blame a legal truth. With a system which amplifies blame, it’s not surprising so many divorcing couples end up locked in conflict for years, in many cases resorting to the courts to try to resolve their difficulties.
This new approach provides an opportunity to reframe the process, with a more collaborative mind set.
“This new approach provides an opportunity to reframe the process, with a more collaborative mind set.
“I don’t subscribe to the idea that no-fault divorce will mean that more people will seek a divorce. This fundamentally misunderstands human nature; in reality, what we see is that many people find it incredibly hard to break emotional attachments and are more likely to stay in damaging relationships than they are to leave them.
“Previous research had indicated that divorce is inevitably bad for the couple and their children, but the situation is more nuanced than that. If a couple are unable to reconcile their differences and feel they have no alternative but to separate, what matters is how they do it and what level of relationship conflict has preceded the divorce.
“What research now shows us is that what is really damaging to children is sustained exposure to intense and unresolved parental conflict, and our legal processes need to aim to help separating parents to mitigate that conflict. This is in the interests of their children’s mental health and developmental outcomes. No-fault divorce is crucial here - giving people a less conflictual way to manage their separation.
“I would like to see the Government investing in relationship support around this change in the law, so that the divorce process can be undertaken in a more considered and thoughtful way. Couples benefit greatly from emotional and professional psychological help at this time, as well as legal counsel. It would be good to see couples signposted towards couple support as part of the divorce process. If there is the possibility of their recovering their relationship, they will have expert help to enable this, and, if not, they can be helped to resolve their divorce and future parenting relationship as constructively and collaboratively as possible.
“A ‘good divorce’ with constructive outcomes for the children, as well as the adults themselves, is not a myth. I have witnessed this many times in my clinical work. However, sadly, all too often the opposite is the case: and the divorce is simply a legal punctuation point in an ongoing, destructive and acrimonious battle in which the adult partners, and their children, remain trapped for years.
Professional support can help couples who are locked together in conflict to separate in the least destructive way possible and to move on with their lives.
“Divorcing couples feel a range of powerful emotions, including a sense of failure, shame, anger, hurt, guilt and loss. It’s hard to function as an adult when you feel like a hurt child. Couple therapy helps people face up to the pain, make sense of their situation and manage their feelings of anger and hurt. Professional support can help couples who are locked together in conflict to separate in the least destructive way possible and to move on with their lives.
“It’s a misconception that it’s too late to have therapy once you are divorced. Through our Department for Work & Pensions funded Reducing Inter-parental Conflict programme we’ve worked with hundreds of couples, and the outcomes for the separated parents are just as good as for those who are still together.”
For more information, view our Divorce and Separation Service web page.
We have also produced a Working Together Divorce & Separation Directory which you can access here,
View videos about no-fault divorce by Dr Avi Shmueli, Head of our Divorce and Separation Consultation Service.