As we sit on the cusp of major legislative change – the UK Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) will finally make “no fault divorce” a possibility when it comes into force on 6 April 2022 – I wonder whether this law change will reverse the reported trend of rising acrimony between divorcing couples.
Last summer, The Telegraph reported post-pandemic break-ups have “got nastier than ever”. Is this really the case? Or has the pandemic just exacerbated and highlighted situations and behaviours that have always existed?
Since January alone, eight people have approached me seeking an experienced family lawyer with a track record of dealing with challenging personalities after seeing this blog I wrote on the difficulty of divorcing a narcissist. Typing “how to divorce a narcissist” into Google is, it seems, now a regular event.
The blog premise was in fact that behaviours now described as narcissistic have always existed, but ready internet and social media access – which increased over lockdown, along with time available for research – means these traits are now more easily identified.
I have been a family lawyer for 30 years and during that time I have dealt with most personality types, which often present at their most extreme during relationship breakdown, especially over money disputes.
One example was the husband who sent postcards from another continent on the pretence he was living abroad to avoid obligations to his wife and child, only to be discovered as the owner and occupier of a four-bed in their home town.
Relationship breakdown can exacerbate people’s worst characteristics, often dormant or smoothed over before the love faded. For many, the decision to leave a partner follows years of anguish. These can be very serious and difficult issues, sometimes requiring professional mental health interventions, but we have the experience and contacts to provide necessary support.
Whilst I am hopeful the new legislation will go some way towards reducing the initial heat of acrimonious break-ups, in practice, ending the marriage is only the start. It is in the midst of arguments over children and money when kindness and compassion is often in short supply.
Whatever happens, as family lawyers, we are here to smooth the process, temper excess and support our clients through every step.
This article first appeared in Yorkshire Post ‘Country Week’ (19.03.2022)
Image credits: Zoriana Stakhniv on Unsplash.