Mediator and family lawyer, Samantha O’Dwyer discusses how the end of the blame game in the divorce process supports and complements the process of family mediation.
In 2022 the largest reform to divorce law in 50 years came into force. The old system, considered as out-of-date and requiring on the whole an element of blame, was swept away and replaced with a more conciliatory divorce procedure, commonly referred to as ‘no fault’. Family practitioners had long recognised that a divorce process based on ‘blame’ did nothing to help couples when separating and inflammatory allegations, commonly caused unnecessary stress and anxiety. I remember being regularly asked if the allegations would be made public, and the fear that the allegations would be made known to the wider family/friend circles. Now, parties merely cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’.
The new system also allows for couples to ‘co-petition’ which adopts the concept of mediation that parties working together to find solutions to living apart is more desirable for them, their partner, and their family. This is especially important where there are children. It is well recognised that animosity in separating couples can have detrimental effect on children’s wellbeing – emotional, educational, and behavioural.
No-Fault Divorce and Family Mediation – So how can the two work together?
Mediation can dovetail nicely with the ethos of no-fault divorce. The changes to the divorce procedure and the ability to make an application online is likely to remove the need to mediate over the divorce process itself. However, it is fair to say that was a small part of the mediation process. Remember, the actual divorce is the legal process of ending the marriage and does not include agreements on financial or child arrangements. This is where no-fault divorce and family mediation can work together.
Whilst mediation remains the most cost efficient, least stressful, and expeditious way to resolve issues which naturally flow from separation, it should not be considered as an easy option. Mediation requires commitment, honesty, and a willingness to compromise to find financial solutions to your living apart and ways to co-parent children in the future. It is also fair to say that it is not for everyone. It remains advisable that both parties seek independent legal advice during the mediation process, especially before final options/decisions are made.