Family lawyers and judges “need menopause training”

Shahzady: Lack of understanding among family lawyers

A large majority of women (76%) who have experienced divorce or separation and the menopause believe family lawyers and judges should have training on the issue so they can “factor it into their cases”.

Almost all (97%) said their family lawyer “did not raise the issue of menopause or perimenopause in discussions or ask if it possibly contributed to the breakdown of the relationship”.

The research, based on responses from over 1,000 women, was carried out for the Family Law Menopause Project, launched by Farhana Shahzady, director of Family Law Partners, in January this year.

Newson Health, Research and Education, a not-for-profit organisation founded by menopause expert Dr Louise Newson, partnered with her to conduct the survey, which was published this week to coincide with World Menopause Day.

More than eight out of 10 women (86%) did not raise the issue of menopause “in any of their discussions” with their family lawyer.

“The most common reason amongst respondents was not understanding the impact of menopause themselves, closely followed by not thinking that menopause was relevant in any way.”

Many “felt unable to articulate” the impact of the menopause/perimenopause on them, while “a small number” felt that the lawyer would not understand.

A survey of solicitors, barristers and judges conducted by the project earlier this year found that 81% believed the family law profession did not fully understand or recognise the impact of the menopause on divorce and separation.

Although most women had used the traditional court process during their divorce or separation, with 69% seeing a family lawyer, more half believed that alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, would be preferable.

Almost three-quarters believed that the menopause creates an “imbalance of power” which makes “communication, negotiation, or dispute resolution difficult”.

Two-thirds said the menopause or perimenopausal symptoms “increased domestic abuse and arguments” in their relationships, while seven out of ten said it had “played a role” in their relationship breakdown.

Researchers said the findings demonstrated the “long-assumed, but never proven, correlation” between menopause and relationship breakdown.

“With the onset of perimenopause in the mid-40s and average age of menopause at 51, there is clear association with the peak time of divorce between ages 45 and 55, where many women are divorcing at a time when menopause or perimenopause is an issue.”

Ms Shahzady commented: “This ground-breaking survey of women confirms the link between menopause and divorce, and further highlights the lack of understanding within the family law profession of the impact of perimenopause and menopause.”

The solicitor said it was of “deep concern” that more than half of the women said the issue would make it harder for them to save for retirement.

“This means that women may face real financial hardship as they approach retirement, post-divorce/separation.”

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