Anyone glancing across the pages of certain tabloid newspapers and celebrity or lifestyle magazines would be forgiven for thinking that divorce is constantly sees conflict trump consensus and that all marriages end in fireworks and spite.
Whilst it would be entirely untrue to say that all spouses part in good humour, I believe it's closer to reality than the image created by a few high-profile cases. Looking over the cases handled by myself and my fellow Oratto members specialising in family law, the vast majority are completed without the kind of rancour which occur only occasionally yet account for a large amount of column inches in the national press.
It could be said that more than 40 years since the last big legislative change in divorce, there have been some pronounced developments in how - and why - husbands and wives go their separate ways.
For instance, adultery - for so long an incendiary allegation in many marriages - has seen a steady decline since the year 2000 and is no longer the stated reason for divorce in most divorces in England and Wales. The catch-all claim of “unreasonable behaviour” is now the most common of all grounds for divorce. What might surprise some people is that adultery doesn't even come second.
More than twice as many divorces are granted to husbands who have been apart from their partners for more than two years as those who claim their wives have been unfaithful. The proportion of wives filing on the same basis is not quite as high but still greater than that for women who believe their husbands have strayed.
Just as with “behaviour”, it's a shift which only happened at the turn of the century, although there's no clear reason as to why there should be a “Millennial Marriage Mindset”.
The idea of couples who want to divorce relatively amicably rather than aggressively has been brought to mind by the actress Gemma Arterton, who has just ended her marriage because of separation. She married in 2010 and separated in November two years later.
Ms Arterton, one of a cast of so-called “Bond Girls” - having appeared alongside Daniel Craig's 007 in Quantum of Solace - can perhaps take some solace of her own from the knowledge that she is part of a growing movement of formerly married individuals. Many of the people who end up pursuing just such an approach seem to start off in the belief that England and Wales have the same kind of “no-fault” divorce which other countries have adopted.
However, when they receive their legal advice and learn that there is no such thing yet (even though the Supreme Court judge, Baroness Hale of Richmond, has called for it as recently as April this year), they are forced to make a choice. They can either make a claim of “unreasonable behaviour” or opt for the kind of two-year wait that Gemma Arterton found preferable. There may well appear to be agreement over the practicality of “behaviour” but as the divorce moves towards its conclusion, some find the idea of having a stain on their character to be unpalatable.
A period of waiting before they can legally move on with their lives might be frustrating but if they can agree on the financial aspects of a split - and, particularly, if they want to minimise the impact which ending a marriage might have on their children - they will accept it as the lesser of two evils.
In finalising her own divorce, Gemma Arterton has proved to be realistic. She has been quoted as telling one interviewer: "No-one gets married to get divorced. That’s just life. It’s the way it is".
I think that she and the many non-celebrities who also choose to wait two years before bringing the curtain down on their own marriages favour grace over grimace and, in doing so, give themselves the chance of a pain-free second act.
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