RESOLUTION, the Family Law association, has long campaigned for the need to remove blame from the divorce process. They state that the current fault-based system leads to conflict and confrontation, which is particularly harmful for children.

Currently, in order to obtain a divorce in England and Wales, couples are required to live apart for at least two years to enable them to divorce by mutual consent; otherwise one partner must blame the other by alleging adultery or what is commonly referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour.’ Without mutual consent after two years or using unreasonable behaviour or adultery the person petitioning for divorce would have to wait five years after separation.

However, the Government recently, and unexpectedly, announced a consultation on reform divorce law, with the Justice Secretary David Gauke MP saying “we think the ‘blame game’ that currently exists helps no one. It creates unnecessary antagonism and anxiety at an already trying time for couples and in particular where there are children.”

A YouGov poll published last month found that 79% of the those questioned agreed that conflict from divorce or separation can affect negatively children’s mental health, a figure rising to 87% among those whose own parents divorced during childhood. 77% of those surveyed also said that conflict could affect a child’s academic performance and a further two-thirds felt social interactions and the ability to form healthy romantic relationships were also jeopardised by an acrimonious separation.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “The current system of forcing spouses to attribute blame for a divorce leads only to increased conflict and unnecessary confrontation.

“We have committed to scrapping this archaic rule as soon as possible, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future.

“I am pleased so many important stakeholders support our reforms, including Resolution, and we welcome all feedback on our proposals.”

Linked to this campaign, is Resolution’s campaign for ‘A Better Way’, asking for separating parents, in particular, to focus on separating in a more constructive way, where possible. Last week, they asked their members to highlight ways that their clients can find a more constructive solution and way through separation and divorce.

Some tips have been suggested for separating parents to try and jointly say to their children:

1. While the feelings we have for each other may have changed, we will never stop loving you;

2. We know this will be hard for you, and we are sorry;

3. You can always love both of us;

4. Just because we are unhappy with each other, does not mean you have to be upset;

5. This is not your fault;

6. This is a problem for the grown ups to sort out;

7. We will always be your parents;

8. You will always have a family. Instead of being one family in one home, you will have one family in two homes;

9. We will both continue to be part of you life.

If possible, try and sit down together with the child or children and have this conversation. Obviously it depends on the age and maturity of the child, but if possible it is better for them to see you having a joint approach. Good communication at this early stage will also bode well for continued communication after separation, which is likely to mean fewer misunderstandings and less conflict in the future. And that has to be a better approach, if it can be achieved. My colleague Helen Bishop has written a lovely picture book for younger children, which will help discuss these tricky issues, and help them to process the feelings they have or will have

If it’s not possible for you to do this, it is worth considering discussing and trying to agree how to tell your children, through mediation, as that can often improve communication, and you will often be able to agree ground rules and ways of parenting after you have separated.