Ask the Expert Emma Wilders-Pratt

Ask the Expert: Why January can be a testing time

Family partner Emma Wilders-Pratt provides her advice to the readers of Winchester Lifestyle magazine on the testing time some families can experience over the Christmas period which can lead to life changing decisions in the New Year.

Aside from festive joviality and merriment, Christmas can actually be a really testing time for families that bring issues right to the fore. Do you typically see an uptake in divorce proceedings after the festive period and what tend to be the triggers?

Christmas can really be a testing time for any family. The pressure to have the picture perfect family Christmas, coupled with the day to day stress of family life can amplify the cracks in a marriage. Typically as a result we do see a significant increase in couples separating in January.

DIY divorces have been looked at as a way to save money, but cutting corners rarely ends well financially. What do you advise clients as the best course of action from the beginning?

Getting advice as soon as possible is the key. The divorce proceedings should be a simple process if dealt with correctly. How we deal with the financial arrangements of the marriage and the future care of the children is far more important and entirely separate to the divorce proceedings. There are various options for separating and divorcing couples to agree all issues that may arise following the breakdown of the relationship. They include mediation, the collaborative approach, arbitration and the traditional court approach. How couples begin the process will invariably dictate how the process will be dealt with to the conclusion. If clients get advice early on before they start any legal process, they can make an informed decision regarding the best way forward. Without early advice they may be unaware of the alternative conciliatory ways to divorce, which in turn, could lead to an unnecessarily litigious way ahead. Separating couples also need to be aware that, once divorced, their financial claims against one another remain live. This is not something they will be aware of if they adopt the DIY approach to the divorce proceedings.

Divorces are highly emotive and sadly, it is often children that get caught in the crossfire – how can you mediate the effects on them and look toward a smooth transition?

As a committed member of Resolution I strive to adopt a conciliatory approach where possible and ensure my cases are dealt with as painlessly as possible. I work hard to help my clients leave the marriage with their dignity intact and feeling that they have retained control of the process and developed a positive post separation parenting relationship with their former spouse. This is of course not always possible, but it is what I try to achieve where I can. The best way to ensure this is if the clients adopt the collaborative approach. This is also referred to as the “no court” approach. Both parties instruct a collaboratively trained solicitor and commit not to go to court. All issues are addressed in face to face meetings, avoiding the risk of entrenched positions and delay often caused in the traditional approach via solicitor correspondence. By working together with the support of the collaborative lawyers, not only do the clients retain control of the process, which in itself is empowering, they learn to work together, however difficult it may seems at first, post separation. This in turn has a hugely positive impact on the children of the family. I also ensure, where possible, that my clients have the support and guidance of a family consultant for themselves and, where appropriate, their children, which is often invaluable.

What is the best piece of advice you could give to anyone facing the prospect of divorce?

Often when my clients initially come to see me they are in absolute turmoil. Their whole world as they know it has been turned up side down. The best piece of advice I could give would be: Allow yourself to grieve the end of the marriage and work hard not to apportion blame. This will only serve to increase the pain you and your family are experiencing. Instead focus on surrounding yourself with the right support and assistance both legally and therapeutically. They will work as a team to support you and your family every step of the way.

Article written by Emma Wilders-Pratt