In the latest iteration of In the Yellow Chair, Tom Nash – also known as Mr Divorce Coach – offers his perspective on the introduction of no-fault divorce one year on.
Why do you think no-fault divorce was implemented?
No-fault divorce (NFD) is the beginning of a new era in family law, and I feel it is long overdue. It is an opportunity to lessen the contention and help parties to start on the right formal footing to remove the blame game.
Prior to NFD, couples were effectively steered towards blame, thus adding potential bitterness and emotion into the mix. In my work as a Divorce Coach, I have seen that the implementation of NFD has helped many clients to begin their journey in a much better way by removing the need to point the finger, to come up with as many scenarios and experiences to apportion their “emotional justice”.
Now, it has to be said that NFD isn’t going to help everyone or have the desired impact for every situation – but then what would? The implementation of NFD is a fantastic starting point for bringing around positive change, affording both parties the chance to step back and remove the emotion of divorce and consider stepping into the “business of divorce” much earlier.
Have you seen a reduction in combative separating culture now that the need to assign blame isn’t present in all cases?
Yes, I have witnessed an improvement and reduction in how parties are approaching their separation/divorce. For the majority of clients I work with, they were already looking at better ways of tackling this life-changing event. For those people, it has added an additional layer to get through this emotional rollercoaster in a more considered, empathetic, and human way.
I also suspect that NFD has shone a brighter light on the various forms of dispute resolution. By starting off with removing the blame, clients are already in a different headspace and thinking pattern that allows them to be more open to all their options such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborative.
That said, however, we are always going to see those who seek emotional justice, who want “their day in court”, thinking the system will hold the other party to some form of account for their behaviours.
In fact, I have witnessed those combative situations rising, quite possibly due to not being able to blame one or another party. I have had clients who have said they wish the old system was still in place as they want the world to know what their partner did to them.
Fortunately, those situations are rare, and I do feel we are seeing a shift in the right direction. I see the recent data released on the spike in divorce applications last year as a sign that there were many who were waiting for NFD to come in as opposed to few who rushed their applications through pre 6th April last year.
If so, how does this impact the relationship between a solicitor and a divorce coach?
If anything, I feel that this has only strengthened the relationship and cooperative approach between solicitor and divorce coach.
NFD is affording people the opportunity to think, act, and be better through their divorce journey. This goes in tandem in the work both legal and non-legal professionals can do together.
Coaches can assist clients much earlier in their process – somewhat as a preventive measure – to help them learn, process, and manage their emotions better. To improve their thinking patterns and their internal dialogue with themselves, thus creating better actionable behaviours, improved communications, and more considered approaches to all the situations they may face from finances to child matters.
Ultimately, the solicitor gets back a more congruent and less emotively charged client, allowing the legal professional to conduct their role in a better manner, reducing their own stresses and psychological impacts. I have one family law partner who refers to me as her “emotional outsourcer” – she knows that area is not her lane, likewise I would never give tax advice as that is not my area of expertise.
Overall, I believe that the introduction of NFD has not only served the potential clients well, but has also created a wider acceptance between all professionals of how we can all work together better and offer clients a full support service of legal, financial, and emotional support.
Writing in The Times, Francesca Davey of Nockolds suggested that the introduction of no-fault divorce was “turbo-charging hasty DIY divorces”. Is this reflected in your experience?
I resonate with Francesca’s comments. My fear was that we would see a stark increase in “insta-divorces” where people enter into the process with very little to no knowledge about what they’re getting themselves into, Googling every step of the way without true information on what they need to consider in relation to things like pensions, child arrangements, and more.
I suspect we were always going to see some kind of an increase initially, but as time goes on I see that clients still recognise the need for good and true legal advice.
Yes, there will be some who try to do the whole “DIY” approach – possibly those on low incomes, for example – but I suspect that we will see another shift further down the road where enough DIY experiences have shown why it is so fundamentally important to have the right team around you and that having the right legal representative by your side is still so very important.
There is a similar conversation happening in the Coaching world right now in relation to AI tech and things like ChatGPT. There are those that fear people will just use one of these AI bots to Coach them and tell them all the answers and advice. But that isn’t what Coaching is, and again in time people will come to realise there is no substitute for educated, knowledgeable, and ethical professionals when it comes to any DIY options.