How to have a good divorce

Fri 6th Jan 2017

Going through a divorce is always going to be a stressful experience, but some of the strain is avoidable. Elise Alma, Partner and Head of the Family team at Coodes Solicitors, gives her tips on how to make divorce proceedings go as smoothly as possible.

Statistics show that around 42% of marriages will end in divorce. When you have tried everything to keep a marriage afloat but have come to the conclusion that you no longer want to be together it is easy to fall in to the trap of blaming the other party and this is where the situation can become toxic. Once parties become entrenched in their negative views about one another divorce proceedings can turn into a battleground, where ultimately neither party will wins. However, if all parties work constructively together, it is entirely possible to have a ‘good’ divorce.

Try to maintain good relations

Amidst the sadness of the breakdown of a marriage it is often difficult to maintain good relations with your estranged spouse. However where possible divorcing couple should strive to do this, particularly where children are involved, and a good solicitor can help you do this. Many family solicitors will actively encourage clients to try to avoid contested court action and look at alternative ways of dealing with divorce proceedings as well as finances and what will happen with any children, by agreement between the couple.

Use mediation

Couples are often assisted by attending mediation sessions where a neutral third party can help them decide on a way forward. There are often numerous other issues that need to be sorted out alongside a divorce such as who will care for the children, what child maintenance will be payable, will the family home be sold and how any pensions will be shared. People are often surprised to find out that these issues are dealt with separately from the divorce itself. Mediation can help divorcing couples sort through these areas of their lives.

Keep your divorce petition short and simple

If you feel you have been wronged, it can be tempting to include reams of information in your divorce petition explaining exactly what you think of their spouse. This is very unlikely to be helpful in maintaining good relations and can really draw things out, adding to your legal costs. Instead parties should agree to use the minimum amount of detail necessary to satisfy the court that a divorce is required. Your solicitor should be able to prepare a draft of the divorce petition for you and send it to your spouse prior to sending it to the court to check that they are happy with the contents.

Agree costs upfront

Divorcing couples should also try and come to an early agreement over the costs of the divorce. Most people are willing to meet half the costs of the divorce whilst some are happy to meet only their own costs. It may be entirely appropriate for one person to pay all the costs if they have a much stronger financial position. Either way, it is much better for everyone to have a clear idea of the amount they will be expected to pay from the outset. This avoids any nasty surprises at the end of the proceedings.

Put on a united front for your children

Being caught up in a divorce is almost always upsetting and unsettling for children. If their parents are at war with each another this makes the situation so much worse. It is far better for divorcing parents to explain that they love the children very much and will both still be in their lives. For younger children, a clear routine setting out when they will see both parents is extremely helpful. For older children, allowing them a say over their arrangements is appropriate. If arrangements can be agreed between the parents without the need for numerous solicitors’ letters or court proceedings, then so much the better. Not only does this keep the legal costs down but it makes it clear to the children that their parents are still capable of getting on with each another.

Aim for a fair split of finances

How assets or debts are divided is generally the most divisive issue that solicitors will deal with. Both parties generally want to walk away feeling they have come out on top when in reality most judges will tell you that a fair split often means both parties feeling slightly hard done by!

What constitutes a ‘fair’ split is different in every case but the starting point is to look for an equal split of assets and then adjust this depending on the particular circumstances. For example, if one parent will be looking after young children for the majority of the time then they may need the lion’s share of the assets. Only in very rare circumstances will ‘bad behaviour’ be taken into account when separating assets. A wronged spouse may feel they deserve more if, for example, their spouse has cheated on them, but this is not something the court will take into account when separating assets.

Find a solicitor who is a member of Resolution

While it will not always be possible to deal with matters without resorting to a court case, both parties and their solicitors should do all they can to behave in calm, rational and reasonable fashion. A good starting point in choosing a solicitor would be to see if they are a member of Resolution, a national body that believes in a constructive approach to family law. At Coodes, we ascribe to the ‘Resolution’ code of practice, which recommends a non-confrontational approach. A lawyer who approaches a divorce in this way, will be best placed to help you have a ‘good’ divorce.”

For more information or advice on divorce or any Family matters, please visit our Divorce and Separation pages or contact Elise Alma in the Family Team at Coodes Solicitors on 01566 770000 or elise.alma@coodes.co.uk

Fri 6th Jan 2017

Elise Alma

Partner

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