As the reader will no doubt be aware, a new system of no-fault divorce came into force on the 6th of April last.
A primary aim of the system was to remove much of the animosity from the divorce process, by doing away with the need to blame the other party for the marriage breakdown.
As part of this aim the system introduced for the first time the possibility of both parties applying jointly for the divorce, to reflect the fact that sometimes the decision to divorce is a mutual one.
And new figures from HM Courts and Tribunals Service indicate how many couples are taking advantage of this possibility.
The figures relate to the new online divorce service, which was updated to meet the requirements of the new divorce system.
The figures show that in the first month of its operation the new service received a total of 12,978 divorce applications, of which 2,771 were made jointly. That means that 21 per cent, or about one fifth, of all applications in that month were made jointly.
As indicated above, joint divorce applications were not possible under the old divorce law. The change to allow them has generally been welcomed, even by some who do not like the idea of a party who has not been found to be at fault being unable to defend a divorce.
For example, in a debate about the new law in the House of Lords, Baroness Meyer, who expressed concern about the idea of no-fault divorce, said: “I welcome the new concept of divorce by mutual decision through a joint application. Anything that reduces the stress, cost and emotional aggravation of a broken-down relationship must be for the good.”
So the question is: is one-fifth of divorces being issued jointly a good level of uptake for the new law?
Obviously, the fact that a couple whose marriage has broken down decide to apply jointly for the divorce may be viewed as a good thing, and therefore the more couples that take that route the better.
On that basis, just one-fifth of divorces being issued jointly may be thought by some to be rather disappointing.
It should, however, be remembered that the possibility of joint divorce applications is something new, and it may take some time before all divorcing couples become aware of it. It may be that in a year’s time the uptake will be rather higher.
Perhaps we will just have to wait before we reach any conclusion about the uptake of joint applications.
However, a more important question about joint applications is whether there is a correlation between them and agreed divorce settlements – i.e. a joint application makes an agreed settlement more likely.
One would certainly expect there to be such a correlation (although only time will tell), and if there is then that would certainly be a good outcome for the new law.
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