This ‘divorce week’, Vardags barrister John Oxley was the lawyer of choice for TalkRadio’s morning show. As the beginning of January is infamous for its influx of divorce petitions, Paul Ross and Carole Malone were eager to understand what really brings people to split and why.
Dramatically opening the discussion with a quote from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Paul Ross called on John as “somebody who really knows the law”:
“All happy families are happy in the same way, unhappy families are all unhappy in different ways.”
Claiming “I don’t think a pain-free divorce is even possible”, the host asked John how the difficulties of separation can be eased. Stating that the best policy is honesty, John admitted that the process will always be tough, but it is possible to part without acrimony. This, he added, would be much easier to do if the government introduced ‘no-fault divorce’.
TalkRadio wanted to know why it is that people split. John explained that although people petition for divorce for a whole host of reasons, such as adultery, the most common reason why couples part ways is much more prosaic:
“Most of the time it’s that general falling out of love, things not working as a relationship any more.”
Often it is the “little nagging things”, such as feeling taken for granted or belittled, which eventually drive a marriage into the ground. John then gave this nugget of wisdom:
“When it becomes you versus the other person rather than the two of you versus the problem, that’s generally a sign that you’re not going to be able to get it back on track.”
Having heard from The Marriage Foundation that most divorces are “preventable”, Carole Malone wanted to know if John thought couples should seek conciliation instead. He expressed the belief that “getting the court process started helps focus people’s minds”, giving people a timetable to either resolve matters between each other or hand their decisions over to the court. He did however emphasise that when clients come to him, they have already tried everything possible to remedy their marital ills.
The interview then turned to ‘silver splitters’ and their motivations for divorce. John confirmed that there has definitely been a “big increase” over recent years in couples over the age of 60 parting ways. Looking at the causes, John cited children flying the nest, better financial independence and decades left of good health. Answering to Carole Malone’s concerns that this decision could leave people feeling lonely, John commented that this is a “risk worth taking” when faced with the miseries of staying in a loveless union. Ultimately, John stressed that adults have the autonomy to choose what’s best for them and lawyers can only assist in realising this future:
“It’s very hard to predict in life what’s going to makes you truly happy, and it’s certainly not my job to do that – my job is to advise the people who have decided divorce is for them.”
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