Statistics just released in England and Wales revealed that last year the number of couples divorcing was at its highest level since 2009. The divorce rate increased by almost 6 percent between 2015 and 2016. This represents the highest year on year increase since 1985.
Most of those divorces were raised on the basis of the unreasonable behaviour of one of the parties. In fact, 36 percent of divorces raised by men relied on the unreasonable behaviour of his spouse. Of the divorces raised by females, 51 percent were based on unreasonable behaviour.
It may well be that the next set of Scottish statistics show that divorce is again on the rise here in Scotland too. However, divorce doesn’t have to result in a blame game and it doesn’t have to be messy.
The statistics from England and Wales on the reasons for divorce contrast starkly to the picture in Scotland. In 2015-16, 94 percent of Scottish divorces were granted based on the simple fact of the parties no longer living together. This is not new in Scotland. This has generally been the position since around 2010.
In Scotland, the overwhelming majority of divorces are granted without blame being attached to either party. Parties can agree to divorce after one year of living separately. Even when one spouse does not agree to divorce, a divorce can nevertheless be granted by the court after two years of separation. Compare that to the situation in England and Wales, where separated couples have to wait two and five years respectively.
The result in Scotland is that it is rare for courts to have to make a determination about blame within, or decide the fate of, separated couples. In 2015-2016 only 4 percent of Scottish divorce cases were defended.
These figures do not come as a surprise to Scottish family lawyers. It is sensible and economical for couples to resolve disputes outwith the court setting. It is also better for family relations. Estranged couples have an array of alternative methods available to them to address disputes arising from their separation. Couples can invoke the services of an independent mediator to help them resolve matters. Alternatively, the collaborative law process can be used. This involves a series of meetings providing the setting within which to attempt a resolution. Even when parties simply cannot agree, there is no need to rush to the court room. A specially trained family law arbitrator (or private judge) can be appointed by the couple. The arbitrator can make an entirely confidential and impartial determination of the dispute.
Divorce may well be on the up, but there is no need for parties to participate in a blame game. Divorce need not be expensive nor messy.