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Survey Reveals Friendly and Amicable Divorces Now Almost as Common as Hostile Separations

Survey Reveals Friendly and Amicable Divorces Now Almost as Common as Hostile Separations


Specialist lawyers say is due to the introduction of several measures including no fault divorce, mediation vouchers and the rise in friendly celebrity splits

The YouGov poll of 1003 adult divorcees in the UK commissioned by the family law team at Irwin Mitchell found that one-in-three (32%) of respondents said the tone of their divorce was hostile, but 27% described the tone of their divorce as friendly or amicable. A further 27% said the tone was neutral.

  • Around one in three describe the tone of their divorce as friendly or amicable
  • A similar number describe the tone of their divorce as hostile
  • Mediation only used by 14% of respondents
  • Lawyers say couples should consider taking back control of their separation with mediation often quicker, cheaper and more amicable than going to court

Last year the Government introduced no-fault divorce which allows couples to separate without apportioning blame. The hope was that this would lead to friendlier separations which would alleviate some pressure on the courts. The Irwin Mitchell survey by YouGov found that a quarter of respondents (25%) had resolved their divorce through the no fault divorce process.

However the survey found that just 14% of respondents had resolved their divorce through mediation which is designed to be less adversarial than heading to court. This is despite the Government introducing £500 mediation vouchers in 2021 for people meeting a certain criteria to try and encourage people to settle out of court post-Covid.

Also, despite many divorces still being considered hostile or bad tempered, only a quarter of respondents think that mediation should be mandatory for all couples going through a divorce, regardless of the nature or severity of their separation.

Irwin Mitchell recently recruited former BBC News presenter Joanna Gosling as a specialist mediator after she switched careers early in 2023.

Claire Filer, a specialist divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “There have been various activities to try and change attitudes to divorce to being more amicable, such as the offer of mediation vouchers, the introduction of no-fault divorce and a general awareness of ‘friendly divorces’ by celebrities. This is reflected in our divorce survey with almost as many respondents describing their divorce as friendly or amicable as said it was hostile.

“We know that alternative dispute resolution methods still tend to be underused and misunderstood. Mediation is growing in stature amongst Judges and there have been calls to make it mandatory. What’s important to remember is that you don’t have to agree on everything from day one to go through the process. It may take a few sessions for both sides to agree on all aspects of their separation but this is still likely to be quicker and cheaper than fighting through the courts.

“Through mediation the couple can usually choose their mediator and agree on timings and locations giving them more control over the process than going through the busy court systems which are currently experiencing delays and challenges in resources.”

The survey also found that 90% of respondents were not offered any counselling or therapy to help them during the divorce process. Irwin Mitchell recently employed an in-house counsellor accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and has financial planners available to help those who need extra support in building their new lives post-divorce.

Claire added: “Divorce is one of the most stressful life events people can go through, especially if there are children involved and in the recent cost of living crisis. It’s why we want to make people more aware of the alternative options for resolving a divorce such as mediation, arbitration, no-fault divorce and the collaborative process. We also have our own specialist in-house counsellor and financial planners and it’s really important that people feel supported through the moments that matter and divorce is likely to be one of the most difficult periods of their lives.”