Join us for a profound conversation with Chris Sweetman, Director at Fair Result, as we explore the urgent need for reform in the current divorce process. In this enlightening interview, Chris passionately advocates for a ground-breaking shift in the way couples approach divorce.
Discover why he believes that prioritising financial and child arrangements before initiating the divorce process can save time, money, and emotional turmoil. This innovative perspective could be the key to a smoother, more amicable divorce journey.
Read on for the full transcript of our video, “Improving the Divorce Process.”
Hello everybody um, so today we have Chris Sweetman um, he’s here to talk to us about the, current divorce process and what his thoughts are about some amendments or some changes that can be made to our divorce process in the UK.
Um, Chris is uh with Fair Result and he’s really passionate about the welfare of children and families post-divorce and how that can be made easier, quicker and also for the families themselves, how the divorce process or what his thoughts are about the divorce process can actually make it much easier for people going through divorce compared to what the current status is.
What is the current divorce process at the moment?
So Chris maybe you can just tell us what, how, what is the divorce process at the moment?
The divorce process at the moment is basically split into three parts the actual legality of the divorce process, which is done predominantly now online, then there’s the issue resolving the financial aspects of a marriage and if there are any children involved then the third part of the divorce process is resolving any arrangements that you need to make in respect of the children. Okay.
What are your thoughts on the current divorce process compared to your proposed idea and why?
My personal views are that the, the process at the moment is actually the wrong way round. You’re allowed to start the divorce process which is the legality of ending the marriage, which takes an application of about 20 minutes online, then a waiting process of 20 weeks for a conditional order to be uh, granted by the court service and a further six weeks before the final order is granted by the court which formally ends and dissolves the marriage.
In that time parties are expected to sort out, all the financial arrangements and all the children’s arrangements but unfortunately the way the system works at the moment, in terms of being able to apply to court for a court listing where you to need that in the financial or the children’s hearings, the court system is so far behind at the moment, that it doesn’t allow the system to work within that six-month window.
My process would be actually, because of the contention and arguments that tend to happen sometimes with some divorces, it allows the process to elongate itself and my view would be that the best way to deal with divorce, finances and children, would be for those matters to be sorted out before the parties could actually apply for a divorce/ ending the marriage so that it would focus the minds of the parties themselves and the lawyers advising them that what was really wanted in the case, was actually a resolution to the problems that have led to the families needing a divorce, so focus on the issues which are causing the problems, get those sorted out and then allow the parties to get the formality of the divorce at the end.
That I think, would actually focus the minds of people on what they actually wanted so that they could get the resolution to the children’s proceedings, they could get the resolution to the finance. Rather than being stuck in a system, that’s controlled by the courts and solicitors, who sometimes don’t work at the speed that actually the families want them to work at so essentially, turn it on its head. Start with the finances, start with the children, get those resolved and then you can apply for the divorce. That would be my way of speeding up the process and providing some kind of emphasis and effort on the parties resolving the big issues.
Okay, and so um, like you say turned the process on its head and you know if this is what you want, then get this done first and then you can get the divorce and that way people just focus on what is in front of them, as opposed to I think you gave give me an example of, um, where you can have couples who are embroiled in conflict over a few hundred pounds “where is it? What did you do with it?” and this just can keep going.
This is a situation often that happens with the finances in the first instance where parties tend to get stuck on finding out and resolving what the marital pot is. And unfortunately the system is such that you have to disclose all your information and I’m completely in agreement with disclosing all your financial information, but unfortunately then the system allows lawyers to act, ask needless and repetitive questions about finances that occurred maybe 18 months ago, 12 to 18 months ago.
We’ve had one instance recently where a lawyer insisted on obtaining financial bank statements from an account that had a closing balance of 8 pence and had, had a yearly balance that didn’t move from the eight pence in it all year but because there had been a transaction outside the last year before the divorce, they wanted to see all those statements and the client had to go through the process of applying to Virgin Money to get the statements because the bank account had been closed, all of which took time and created more animosity, between the parties when both of them knew this joint account had literally no money in it, but unfortunately the system because the way lawyers work, meant that they wanted to cover every base, and ensure that they’d seen this statement and that added at least four months to the process by the time that they’d raised the questions, obtained the bank statements, and then accepted that there was nothing more behind the eight pence bank account.
Four months to the process, it added four months to the process but we haven’t even touched on how much more it costs that could have been, thousands of pounds, thousands of pounds were added to the legal bills just because, the parties wouldn’t simply confirm to their lawyer that they want, that there was 8 pence in this account, my client was telling me that’s all there was but unfortunately on the other side, we were getting a situation where they wouldn’t accept it without the, the process being disclosed fully.
That cost my clients a lot of money, a lot of time, and in reality an awful lot of hassle between these two people, and the children that were involved because the parties were arguing about finances and they couldn’t end the divorce, and they couldn’t move on. If they wanted to move on, get those finances sorted out straight away quicker, sooner, more proactively, and then allow the divorce process to go ahead.
Do you see this new proposal not working for some couples?
I’m just wondering Chris, with the new well, with the new, with what you’re proposing the changes that you’re proposing do you see that kind of “new system” not working for some couples let’s say no, I, I see that the system would work for couples because actually, the couple who wanted to get divorced, the couple who wanted to move on in life, the couple who wanted to introduce a new partner to the children, who want the divorce to be ended, would actually put pressure on their lawyers to move quicker, faster and with a more urgency on resolving the issues.
Unfortunately, the system works at the moment where there’s no incentive to move quickly in a divorce process. If the clients were in charge saying “we desperately want to get divorced” but there was a system in place that said you can’t get divorced until you’ve sorted the children and the finances out, then I’m sure that there will be more compromise, more settlement, more proactive investigation of what was needed to resolve the issues because the parties themselves would be driving it more.
Whereas at the moment, there’s a, there’s a delay in the court system, there’s a delay in the process, it’s very slow and complex. Even since the new divorce process came in, in April 22 where the idea was that there would be this six-month process, divorce and financial and children’s uh resolution are still taking in excess of 12 months in the majority of cases, and that’s not good for the parties. Make them focus on their real goals and let them, then, then let them get the formality of the divorce ended at the end of the resolution of the main issues the children and the finances.
Okay, I was I was wondering if you know if, if it’s almost like saying “okay you want to get a divorce then you need to, to finalise your finances and the children arrangement.”
What if there was abuse or addiction in the relationship?
Um, and then in my mind I was thinking but what if there was um, abuse in the relationship or there was addiction in the relationship and one parent, or one half of the couple is made to feel like oh you know what forget everything, let’s just get the you know take whatever it is that you want I just want my divorce. But then I think what you’re saying is that they’re not doing it on their own they’ll still have solicitors with them, yes, to advise them so that that’s not a case that would um, no. Yeah that’s not a scenario that would.
When there are real issues surrounding the children and the needs of the children and what they want, clearly, the focus would be on resolving the issues, because they’re still going to be legally represented, there’s a, there’s, there’s going to be a pressure from the parties to resolve it, rather than a stagnation period which doesn’t help anybody, but they would always still be assisted by whatever advisors they chose to make sure that they weren’t simply just acquiescing to something that wasn’t in the best interest of them financially, or more importantly in terms of the children.
Okay, well Chris you know at The Divorce Magazine where you’re going to appear we are very big on, you know, as amicable divorces as possible and we are very child centered um, and child focused when it comes to divorce because we just want the best for the children. Um, we’re moving into that as well actually trying to ensure that parties focus on the main issues straight away. Unfortunately, there are still some old-fashioned lawyers out there who don’t want to do that approach where the main issue is to resolve the problems rather than create some problems.
Okay, thank you so much Chris, thank you for coming and speaking with me today at The Divorce Magazine and for those who have not yet subscribed to The Divorce Magazine Channel go on to YouTube and you will find the link will be at the bottom and you can subscribe there.
Thank you so much Chris.
No problem, thank you very much I hope your listeners enjoy it.
Yes I hope so too I think they will I think you’ve made some really good points. Thank you.
About Chris Sweetman
Chris Sweetman is an independent family solicitor and director of Fair Result – An award-winning law office who pride themselves on using innovative ways to help clients through the stress and complications of a marriage break down.
Chris can be contacted on 07500933818 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.