I recently met a man, let’s call him Ashton. Ashton asked me if Family Law had changed over the years. I told him that prior to 1975 there was “fault” divorce and that unless you could prove that someone had done the “wrong” thing, the Court would not approve the divorce.
Adultery, cruelty and desertion were some of the 14 grounds for divorce, but only the “innocent” party could apply for a divorce. Therefore if a spouse left a marriage, they could not obtain a property settlement or potentially even see their children unless their spouse applied to the Court and the other party admitted fault.
In 1975 the Family Law Act came in and for the first time anyone could apply for a divorce (and for property and children’s orders) without anyone being at fault.
Ashton’s parents got divorced in the early 1980’s when he was about 11. His mother had initiated the application and he mostly lived with his mother. His mother’s family were very religious and his mother’s relationship with them deteriorated after the separation. Ashton’s strong and lingering memory was of visiting his aunt and cousins and his aunt calling him an “ungodly child”. He told me that he didn’t understand what he had done to deserve being labelled “ungodly” – at least until I explained the changes in the law some 10 years prior to his parents’ divorce.
What struck me most of all from this conversation was that there remains a raft of misinformation about divorce and Family Law in general and I wonder how many people still labour under the misapprehension that divorce must be someone’s fault.
Just like death and dying, divorce and separation remains the most common significant family event and remains the most under informed and misunderstood legal and social phenomenon.
Whilst we don’t want our kids to take drugs, we want them to be informed about the possible physical and psychological consequences. Similarly we don’t want to ever get divorced, but the more we are informed the more we can make smart choices about our lives.