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A leading UK lawyer reveals the top five ways to protect your marriage from divorce

No-fault divorce, introduced this week, makes it easier and faster for couples to end their marriages.

Divorce applications soared by nearly half just a week after the ‘no fault’ law came into force, according to yesterday’s figures.

Around 3,000 couples have called for an end to their marriages since the rules, which do not require couples to apportion blame, began last Wednesday in England and Wales.

Lawyers said it was almost 50% more than in a typical week.

This has fueled fears it could lead to a spike in divorces. But divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag has warned that divorce should not become “the default option” when a relationship crumbles.

Here, Ayesha shares some tips on the best ways to overcome marital problems without going to the lawyer, from looking into the issues to figure out what you’re fighting for…

Ayesha Vardag shares advice on the best ways to overcome marital problems without going to the lawyer, from looking into the issues to figure out what you’re fighting for. Image bank

1. Decide if there is still something to defend

There will always be situations where the marriage is definitely over, especially if there is some form of abuse.

But after that it depends on the couple’s perspective on what is accepted and what you can never go back from. Some questions may be impossible to answer while others may have solutions if you talk about them.

Sitting down and talking about where things are going wrong can give you time to figure out if there is still something to defend.

2. Look into the problem

It’s also very easy to drift away from your spouse when times are tough. But it can be more damaging in the long run. Like any living being, a marriage must be nurtured and cared for.

You need to spend time together and nurture the marriage with positive experiences. If your marriage survives on purely negative interactions, it will obviously wither and die.

Try not to focus on what your partner did wrong, but on what you can work on together as a partnership to make sure they survive.

We will all make mistakes, but it’s how both parties react to it that will determine what happens to the marriage.

British divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag (pictured) has shared her top tips for couples considering divorce

British divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag (pictured) has shared her top tips for couples considering divorce

3. Don’t talk about divorce as a knee-jerk reaction.

If you are having trouble, don’t immediately start talking about divorce – it’s neither helpful nor healthy.

Instead, focus on the marriage itself and what you and he need to make it work.

Recognize why you got into this situation and what needs to change to prevent it from happening again.

I believe deeply in the power of reconciliation, and sometimes all it takes is for both parties to sit down and approach it as a viable option.

It is surprising how fundamentally contradictory things become in a divorce. I think it’s because there are so many things at stake for people: their life’s work, their children, their home.

Anger and pain can so easily blind people. It is therefore important to do your best to look past these emotions, as they are very often destructive and debilitating and people become very intransigent over the small, insignificant things.

4. Be willing to listen and fight for each other

It may sound cliché, but a marriage is a partnership and both parties need to be willing to work through it and think about their partner’s needs and wants.

If someone feels like they’re not being heard, that causes damage that’s hard to overcome.

Listen to each other and be prepared to fight for each other rather than giving in when the going gets tough.

So if your marriage is struggling, stop and reflect. Discuss things. Remember why you got married and the things you love about each other.

Rationalize what went wrong. Is it really so bad that you wanted to end your life together completely. Did you really separate or did you just change, and now it’s important to regroup and find out what new loves you could share?

And knowing that the law now supports an easier end to marriage means that your energies can instead be directed to determine if, instead, it can be saved.

5. If you get divorced, don’t get bogged down in regret

Don’t get bogged down in regret. And don’t worry if people judge you. I hope the shift to no-fault divorce will make society less critical of the end of marriages.

There seems to be an irresistible temptation for those around a couple to weigh judgmentally and take sides, especially when adultery is at stake.

They don’t understand that much of what drives people to break up is hidden beneath the surface of marriage. And what people at this crossroads in their lives need is support for their future, not judgment on their past.

As a divorce lawyer, you must have a real understanding and compassion for human nature and take it as it comes.

This is why I campaigned for no-fault divorce to become law in the first place – because divorce should not be confused with animosity, backbiting, shame or guilt.

People break up, it happens, it’s quite natural when you have long lives and free and independent people that they can change in different ways and want to go in new directions. That shouldn’t be a bad thing.

One chapter ends, another begins, and if you embark on that next chapter, it can become the wonderful time of your life.

WHAT IS NO-FAULT DIVORCE?

The law was passed in June 2020 and will enter into force on April 6, 2022.

From April 6, the new legislation:

  • Replace the “five facts” with a new requirement to provide a declaration of irrecoverable breakdown
  • Remove the possibility of contesting the divorce
  • Introduce an option for a joint application
  • Make sure the language is in plain English, for example, by changing “nisi decree” to conditional order and “absolute decree” to final order

These changes also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Ayesha points out that some people have been confused with the length of the process, thinking a no-fault divorce will be much faster than a normal process, but both take the same amount of time.

The difference is that the final order will be issued soon after the conditional order, but it’s “tidier and easier”.

This Ayesha sees a positive side because gives a “longer period of reflection”. She explains that some people have confused divorce with a financial procedure.

What no-fault divorce effectively does is “streamline the system” and recognize that “decent human beings” can form relationships that run their course.

No-fault divorce will reduce animosity in the proceedings. Ayesha says “vengeful gratification won’t get anyone anywhere”.

Quoting Ivana Trump: “Don’t get mad, get it all!” she advises to fight a good fight.

By being friendly, you are more likely to get what you want faster in terms of financial settlement. Yet, you can still make professional orders to get abusive partners out of the house. Plus, you can get a criminal conviction against someone – “the protections are intact”.

Why has the law changed?

Under the old law, to obtain a divorce in court, couples could either wait two years or seek an end to the marriage by accusing their partner of adultery or unreasonable behavior.

These examples of unreasonable behavior include refusal of sex, abuse of the mother, refusal to support the spouse, or violent and coercive behavior, to name a few.

They give examples of this behavior, even though the divorce is a mutual and amicable decision.

If, however, both parties consented to the divorce, the petitioner (the spouse who filed for divorce) applied for a nisi decree and then waited six weeks before being able to apply for an absolute decree.

Ayesha, founder and chairman of leading UK and international law firm Vardags, told FEMAIL that the new divorce law reform is much needed in the “modern compassionate society”.

She explains that the new app – which is no longer a petition – will allow couples to end their relationship amicably without playing the blame game so that finances, child custody and ultimately their friendship will be resolved more easily.

She says ‘divorce doesn’t have to be difficult’ and it’s important that ‘all the love (couples) have invested in a marriage is not wasted’.