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Lisa Holden, Head of Family Law comments on the rise in the divorce rate and increase in Cafcass private law cases

Recent news from the Office for National Statistics showed divorce rates in England and Wales have increased for the first time this decade.  Teamed with a four per cent rise in new private law cases to Cafcass, which looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings, Blanchards Bailey’s Head of Family Law Lisa Holden calls for more emphasis on promoting mediation as a solution to separating couples.

Divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in 2016 showed a 5.8 per cent rise compared with 2015 with 106,959 divorces taking place. The average age of divorcees also rose to 46 for men and 44 for women, the highest these numbers have been on record.   The figures also showed the steady increase continues in the proportion of divorces granted to men due to their wives’ behaviour – 39 per cent in 2016.

“September 2017 saw Cafcass receive a total of 3,637 new private law cases – a worrying trend, particularly when so much work has gone into promoting alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation.  And in a recent survey, the UK Family Mediation claimed that over 80 per cent of its cases reached a full settlement.

“It is of national concern that the divorce rate is rising again and shows there is a real need for skilled specialists to assist couples going through this traumatic time to minimise their distress and the impact on the children is lessened. Figures show that children can suffer lifelong psychological damage if they witness their parents going through a ‘bad’ divorce and this in turn impacts on their relationships in adult life. The increase in the number of families choosing the court route to solve their problems rather than reach agreement through discussion and negotiation at mediation only demonstrates that there is a real lack of education about the deep impact family break ups have going through the generations.

“I think it’s problematic that people prioritise their personal dislike of the opponent or a determination to ‘have one’s day in court’ often resulting in families being left bruised and bewildered by what is often quite a brutal process with the children bearing the brunt of their parent’s fury with each other.

“Much more needs to be done to promote the benefits of mediation as a day in court is a hollow victory if regret is likely to follow.”