Having made it past Blue Monday, (this year, 20th January 2020 was alleged to be that day!), some couples may still find themselves considering a divorce. The period directly after Christmas and through to the end of February often results in one of the highest influx of divorce requests during the year.
Whilst divorce may be inevitable for some couples, it does not have to result in a war between both individuals. Love does not necessarily have to be a battlefield and help is at hand.
Here are 8 essential tips that can help you prepare and get you through divorce proceedings.
See a specialist solicitor
Whilst divorce may initially look like a ‘simple’ and straightforward process that can be sorted out without specialist advice, it isn’t and the fail-safe option is to seek experienced legal assistance and guidance. We offer an initial consultation of £100 plus VAT where we can guide you through the process of obtaining a divorce and the steps required. As well as financial considerations, divorce comprises of other matters – such as arrangements for your children (if any) and what will happen to joint assets (such as a family home in both your names).
Try and remain amicable
This may be easier said than done but try and avoid giving into extreme emotions and letting key legal decisions being made irrationally. If both of you try to reach a mutually acceptable settlement, you can make working towards your desired outcomes a smoother process and it may be more cost effective for you both.
If you have children, try not to discuss divorce related matters in front of them and do not use your children as bargaining chips, if this is all possible. While a divorce severs the majority of ties between you and your ex-partner, try not letting it adversely affect your family relationships.
Some of the points made above lend themselves nicely to the issue of mediation. If you can agree to both engage in mediation, this can allow for you to settle your differences by way of solicitor led negotiation. You can attend mediation, either jointly or separately, and discuss how you wish to divide assets of the marriage, how debts shall be settled and arrangements for your children. The outcomes can be provided to your respective legal representatives who will then commence groundwork of negotiating and assisting you to reach a settlement that is fair and reasonable to you both, without the use of court proceedings. This route will almost certainly be more cost effective than court litigation.
If you are subject to domestic violence, please note that you do not have to engage with mediation. Mediation is aimed at financial and child arrangement considerations and if you cannot deal with your partner out of fear, please do not put yourself in this position. There are alternative methods available.
A common misconception that is continually perpetuated by the media is that a “quickie” divorce is available that will result in you being divorced in no time. Sadly, this is a myth. It can take from 6 – 8 months for a divorce to be fully completed, and if there are issues along the way and delays, it can take longer. Depending on how you both address finance issue, this can take a similar time as well. Court proceedings are dependant on the court’s timetable and they may take a while to list your case.
While the whole process does not happen overnight, it will eventually be completed. The more you both can communicate effectively and avoid disagreements, the sooner you can expect matters to be completed.
50:50, double or nothing?
There is a common misconception that when you divorce, you will each get 50:50. This is a starting point but one that may change once everything is known and in the open. At first, this seems quite unfair to a spouse who may have been a “homemaker” – caring for children and not in employment. The court will consider a wide range of facts when considering how a settlement should be agreed. This can include the duration of your marriage; age of both spouses; children of the marriage and your earning capacity for your respective futures. Do not be disheartened if you do not earn as much as your spouse for whatever reason – a settlement in each divorce is wholly unique to you both and whatever you both agree. The idea is that a settlement should not be unfair for either party but diverting from a 50:50 split is permissible where circumstances suggest that is the way forward.
Children come first
If you have children, the needs of your children will come first. Their best interests and welfare are paramount and this will have priority over all other requirements in proceedings.
On this point, child maintenance is payable regardless of whether you are divorcing or not. Child maintenance is a statutory requirement and is to be paid until your children each reach 16 or finish their full-time education. You can both agree if you would like this to be payable until your children reach tertiary education also.
Consent orders vs court proceedings
Ideally, if you can, settling through solicitor led negotiations would be the most amicable and cost-effective approach. Sometimes this may not always be possible.
If your negotiations fall through, do not lose hope. You can engage in court proceedings and have the court assist you in reaching a financial settlement. The court would refer you both to mediation if they decide this is a better option, at any point of the proceedings.
If you both can agree, without the need for court intervention, your solicitors can prepare a “consent order”, which the court would ratify on approval by a judge. This order outlines the division of assets and related matters of the marriage, which you both agree to adhere to. It also allows for both of you to have the order reconsidered at court at a later date if either of you “breach” any of the clauses. Fear not though – if you both agreed to it in the first place, there is an expectation that you will both see it through.
There is life after divorce
Divorce can be a very trying time and have a detrimental effect on your emotional and mental well-being. Remember that alongside legal proceedings, you must find time for yourself and seek counselling if you need someone to talk to (rhw can help with this area). There are many support groups and events you can find in your local areas where others with similar experiences can lend an ear, listen and support you. Take advantage of support and remember that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Niresha Umaichelvam – rhw Solicitors Family Law Team