Family Partner Juliet Mayhew has put together 10 key points to offer guidance to anyone thinking about divorce.
Ask yourself if this is really what you want
It may sound obvious, but do you really want to get divorced or is there a chance that you could reconcile your relationship? Is the rift between you so great that it can not be overcome? Professional counselling services or marriage guidance can help you through this or can help you make a considered decision. Don’t rush into something that will affect the rest of your life without pausing to consider all your options.
Put your children first
Parental conflict can have a hugely adverse impact on children. All too often they are used as pawns in the process of separation and can become collateral damage if their interests are not prioritised. It is important to remember that co-parenting doesn’t end when the marriage does. They are entitled to maintain a relationship with both parents, whatever the reason for the breakdown in the marriage and it is important to separate how you feel about your ex from your children’s relationship with them. Support from a child psychologist or therapist can be invaluable in learning how to set new boundaries, minimise conflict and forge an effective co-parenting relationship post separation.
Look after your emotional health
Divorce can be protracted and leave lasting emotional damage. Close friends and family can play an essential role as an emotional crutch, but even the best of friends can have their patience tested. Therapists and family consultants can offer a way to reduce conflict, improve self esteem and help you as a family to recover, after the legal process is over. Ask your solicitor to recommend someone who can help.
Consider the alternatives to court
Many people believe that they have to go to court to get a divorce. This is not true. In reality there are many alternatives to high conflict and high cost litigation. Discuss with your solicitor alternatives such as mediation or the collaborative approach as these alternatives might be a much more appropriate way to resolve the issues.
Know your rights
The aim of Family law is to achieve fairness. The law strives to ensure that all members of the family are housed and have sufficient income to live on. When considering a fair financial settlement, all the assets, income and other resources are relevant and will need to be disclosed. Each case is decided on its own facts, with a wide discretion and there is no fixed formula. Legal advice at an early stage of the process is vital.
Think twice before you try to punish your ex financially for “bad behaviour”
Conduct such as adultery will not have an impact on what a court would order in terms of a financial settlement. Time and money spent trying to punish your ex for their behaviour within the financial negotiations will be wasted. However, if your ex moves in with a new partner, that can affect the level of maintenance. Bad behaviour on the part of your ex will only play a part in the settlement if it is very extreme and exceptional, or is of a financial nature. For example, if one party has deliberately done something to try to defeat the other person’s financial claims, that may have an impact. Failing to disclose or hiding assets is particularly frowned upon and the courts have recently unravelled court orders where there has been non-disclosure.
Stay in the house
For most couples, the family home is their most valuable asset. The cardinal rule is don’t leave the house! If your ex is also in occupation, careful consideration needs to be given to the feasibility of living together while you go through the divorce process, but remaining in occupation of the family home can put you in a better position in any financial negotiations.
Consider a post nuptial agreement
If there is still time, a post nuptial agreement can be a very effective way to protect your financial interests and that of your children. Provided the agreement meets certain criteria, and subject to overall fairness, the court will give them huge weight, enabling you to protect your assets and bring greater certainty in the event of a divorce.
Keep your legal fees down
Solicitors generally charge on a time basis, so the more you do, the more time and costs you will save. Before you meet your solicitor, write a brief summary of the background to your situation with an overview of your financial position. List any specific questions that you have and send this to the solicitor in advance of your meeting. Take notes during meetings with your solicitor, so that you have a record of the advice given. If you have further questions afterwards, ask several questions at once, so that your solicitor can address all these in a single email, rather than charging for several emails every time you have a question.
Choose the right lawyer
If you don’t have a personal recommendation to follow, it can be daunting putting your trust in a solicitor to handle your most private and personal issues. Choose a specialist family law practitioner who is a member of Resolution. Resolution members adhere to a code of practice that promotes a constructive approach to family issues and considers the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of children. At Trethowans we have a team of seven specialist family lawyers, spread across our offices in Salisbury, Southampton, Poole and Winchester, all of whom are members of Resolution. We are leading specialists in alternative dispute resolution, as well as litigation and we offer a free initial consultation so you can meet us before making a decision about the best way forward.
Article written by Juliet Mayhew