Examination of Witnesses

Part of Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:28 am on 2nd July 2019.

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David Hodson:

It is curious. The reasons for a divorce do not reflect on children issues and they will not be dealt with in financial issues, and we do not deal with them. But it is the psychodynamic of the couple that every so often a client will say to one, three or four months under way, “I still resent the fact that I am the respondent. You do know that this is equally to blame,” and we say, “Yes, we do, but it won’t have any bearing on children or financing”. However many times we say it to our clients, there is a residual feeling in their mind: “How am I the respondent? I shouldn’t be. I may be partly to blame, but I’m not wholly to blame”. It is the black-and-white element that we have one petitioner and one respondent.

One of the things the legislation has to bring through is that we have to review how we call people in this process. It is the softer elements around the legislation that are as important as the harder elements. For example, let us not get rid of the idea of an applicant and a respondent; let us have “in the marriage of”, and let us name the parties. Even if one person applies for a divorce and the other one responds to it, let us call it a divorce between two people, without having a litigious element in the heading. I think Relate and others would also certainly want to support those softer elements, which are crucial to this process as Parliament and society look at amending this law.