Denmark’s making divorce harder with new couples counselling rule

Denmark just made breaking up a little harder [Photo: Getty]

Denmark just made breaking up a little harder with new legislation that will see parents forced to wait three months to divorce and undergo counselling before splitting.

The new policy, passed by the Danish Parliament back in April, will apply to all parents with children under the age of eighteen.

If the course is not completed within the three month reflection period, the couple will remain married.

Despite having a reputation as one of the happiest countries in the world, Denmark also has one of the highest divorce rates in western Europe.

In 2018, it recorded approx 15,000 divorces, which meant almost half of marriages in the country ended in a break up.

Until recently Danes could divorce by filling out a simple online form, but the new legislation has been designed to help encourage couples to really think before their split, while also ensuring that if they do decide to separate, the fallout is less painful for everyone involved.

“This is about reducing the human and the financial costs of divorce,” Gert Martin Hald, a psychologist and associate professor of public health at Copenhagen University who helped devise the counselling course told Guardian.

Parents can tailor their course individually from 17 half-hour modules offering guidance and solutions to potential flash points during the separation process.

Topics covered include navigating birthday parties and advice about discussing topics with an ex-partner while feeling angry.

The course was brought in after being tested with 2,500 volunteers and was widely praised by specialists and those who have completed it.

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Couples with children will have to undergo relationship counselling [Photo: Getty]

The change in the Danish divorce legislation follows a new ruling in the UK which could make it a lot easier, and quicker for couples to go their separate ways.

The introduction of no-fault divorces will mean that couples who want to end their marriages will no longer have to attribute blame or wait for years for their divorce to be finalised.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales stipulates that a couple must either allocate blame for the breakdown of the marriage, or – if both couples agree – wait two years after separation to divorce.

If there is an absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for a whopping five years!

But critics claim that the law fuels acrimony in those already going through a difficult situation and may also encourage false allegations.

Back in February, however, justice secretary David Gauke confirmed that this area of divorce law will now be reformed.

Writing in The Telegraph, he said that that under the current 50-year-old divorce law, there is a legal requirement to find a 'guilty' party which "leads to children being caught in the middle of a fractious and upsetting process".

"Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances,” he added.

"Indeed, I have heard on many occasions that our divorce laws, as they stand, serve as an encouragement for some separating couples to grossly exaggerate their behaviour-based claims so that they don't fall foul of the rules.”

Commenting on the UK’s divorce reform author and Divorce Coach, Sara Davison, who was part of the divorce law reform consultation process said: "Having to blame one party for the breakdown of a marriage causes huge amounts of stress in a relationship.

“It often leads to unacceptable behaviour as tensions rise and in some cases get out of control.

“For many, the real damage is done during the divorce process and that makes it impossible to maintain an amicable relationship in the future which again causes problems, especially if there are children involved.

“Children are the ones who ultimately suffer most with this conflict.”

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Davison said divorce is known as the second most traumatic life experience after death of a loved one so it's not something to be taken lightly and needs careful consideration.

“We live in a highly disposable society where if we don't like something we change it. In a culture influenced heavily by celebrities, we see them falling in and out of marriages seemingly unscathed and moving on at lightning speed.

“In reality it's not that easy and is an emotional rollercoaster fraught with life changing decisions. Of course every marriage has its ups and downs so learning to communicate better with your partner is key. The better you understand each other the better you will navigate the challenges that come your way."

The new legislation comes as it was revealed that more than 400 people filed to divorce their spouses this year between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The festive period can be an intensely stressful and reflective time, and for many this seems to be when they called it a day on their marriages.

Depressingly, a small number – 13 – of these divorce applications were submitted on Christmas Day itself, according to figures from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

The rise in more couples divorcing has lead to calls from a top divorce solicitor for schools to teach about marriage in their curriculum.

Baroness Fiona Shackleton of Belgravia is one of the UK’s most famous divorce lawyers – and she wants schools to teach students to view marriage as one of the most important decisions they make.