Divorce lawyer Dan Norris has backed the views of a senior judge that too many divorce cases were ending up in court and causing unnecessary emotional trauma for children.
Dan, one of our family law solicitors, said that too many people were ending up in court instead of first trying mediation and other options to resolve their relationship breakdown.
Dan was speaking out after Sir Andrew McFarlane, head of the family courts in England and Wales, said that he estimated a fifth of marriage break-ups were wrongly ending up in court with one partner suing the other.
Dan said: “Sir Andrew is correct when he says that too many people see the breakdown of their marriage as a legal issue to be decided in court rather than a relationship one.
“Often when I see people at the start of the divorce process they are anticipating first and foremost that they will need to go to court as part of some adversarial process to end their marriage.
“But actually court should always be a last resort if there are no issues of domestic abuse, child protection or safeguarding. Using the courts makes the process much longer than it needs to be and, if there are children in the relationship, the harm that it does to them is increased.”
Sir Andrew, who was speaking on the BBC Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House at the weekend, said: “You’ve just asked me about whether children are harmed by what goes on in their family and the evidence is, yes. And parents are, I think, fooling themselves if they say we are not involving the children or the children don’t know.”
Some family courts are trialling cases being provided with a “child impact assessment” – to “provide a wake up call to the parents as to the impact of what they are doing on their child”.
In 2020, a report by the Family Solutions Group found the family justice system was in crisis, with the numbers of parents making applications unmanageable. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there were more than 103,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2020.