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Increase in divorces in 2012

Increase in divorces in 2012

The Office for National Statistics has reported figures suggesting that a general downward trend in the divorce rate in England and Wales may have been reversed by the recession of 2008-2009. The total number of divorces increased 4.9% in 2010, and grew further to 118,140 in 2012 – approximately 13 an hour, or one every five minutes. Some have suggested that the increased financial strains created during the economic downturn could have contributed to the rise.

Separately, Support 4 Separated Parents, a helpline, has reported that one in five couples with children consider splitting up in the period after a summer holiday. Hazel Hedley, who runs the service, said “If a couple isn’t getting on and then they suddenly have to spend 24/7 together away from home, with the children, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Finances, children misbehaving, and just being out of routine can bring dissatisfaction to a head”.

Children need counselling

However, Paula Hall, a relationship therapist at the marriage counselling service Relate, claims that separations are rarely reducible to one single cause or another: “Relationship breakdown is complex and the damage has often been done over many years of either unresolved conflict or distance”. What is clear is the effect this has on the children caught up in the middle of an often rancorous process.

The charity ChildLine says it held around 600 counselling sessions with children in 2012-2013 – a rise of 171% on the previous 12 months. One of the areas that saw a particularly large increase in calls was from children worried about their parents’ separation or divorce. Susan Dobson, ChildLine service manager, said “Some of these children need somewhere to vent [their feelings], but for many they’re facing a really difficult time at home and are desperate for reassurance and a safe space to share their fears”.

One unnamed child, under the age of eleven, got in touch with ChildLine, and told them “When I spend time with my Mum I know that my Dad feels down, and then when I go to see my Dad then my Mum will feel down. I find it really difficult to talk to them about it because I know it’s hard for them both, but I hate feeling guilty all the time”.

Children must be at the centre of proceedings

Earlier this year, Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes told the Voice of the Child conference in July, which was organised by members of the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPD), of his own experiences of divorce, and how it helped inform the creation of a National Charter for Child Inclusive Family Justice – the central tenet of which is that, in his words, “Children and young people should be at the centre of all proceedings”.

Mr Hughes’ proposals were backed up by FJYPB member Usman Ali, age 21, who said “Judges wield considerable power over a child’s life. It is important that when long term decisions are being made the child’s needs, wishes and feelings should be heard so that they feel included and involved in decisions made about their life”.

With the average divorce now costing protagonists £28,000, and with fewer than 40% of people feeling happier at the end of it all – not to mention again the adverse effect it can have on any children – it seems more important than ever to take professional advice before committing to a permanent separation.

Family break-ups are traumatic for adults, and children in particular. We can provide initial short family law consultations at a reduced fixed fee, where our expert advisors will be able to give you initial guidance on ways to resolve family disputes, either through mediation or individual representation.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of family law, are considering divorce proceedings or a trial separation, or want to draw up a pre or post-nuptial agreement, call us in absolute confidence on 03456 381381. Alternatively, email us at familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk.