5 critical steps to consider when embarking on a divorce
By Peter Jones, founder
Britain now has the joint highest divorce rate in the European Union. There are 2.8 divorces per 1,000 people in the UK, compared with an average of 1.8 divorces for every 1,000 people across the EU.
Many people are affected by divorce at some point in their life – whether as divorcees themselves or through seeing parents, siblings, children and friends split up. It can be a daunting experience, and should not be entered into without proper planning or an appreciation of the repercussions for everyone involved.
While every couple’s circumstances are different, below are some key issues to consider:
Q. I’ve been considering a divorce for some time – what should I do?
A. Think carefully about why you want a divorce, and about the practical and emotional consequences of no longer being with your spouse. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you being reasonable?
- What do you envisage the outcome being for yourself and everyone else involved?
- What are the likely downsides – not just for you, but for any children?
Having reflected on the above, discuss your feelings with your partner. Depending on your circumstances, you might want to explore if the situation is retrievable. Other ways to resolve marital issues include marriage guidance, mediation and family law arbitration.
Bear in mind that it is now compulsory for anyone planning to divorce to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (called a MIAM) before applying to take disputes over children or finances – including property and pensions – to court. Mediation can be an effective way of resolving disputes without involving the court. It entails an independent third party, a mediator, who helps both sides come to an agreement. It is a highly effective method which can result in a swift resolution and save on legal expenses.
Q. I’ve decided to go ahead with a divorce – what are the next steps?
A. Instruct a solicitor who is experienced in family law and a member of Resolution, an organisation of family lawyers and other professionals who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.
Try to ensure the divorce is amicable as squabbling ramps up legal fees, increases the pain of any split – and can fuel a lingering bitterness for both partners.
Q. How are assets and financial arrangements settled in a divorce?
A. The settling of financial matters on divorce is called financial remedies. The law in this area is very flexible to enable courts to achieve fairness depending on the individual circumstances of each case.
Because the court has a wide discretion in applying the law, it is better to avoid the uncertainty of a court hearing. With help from family lawyers like ourselves, most people are able to agree how their finances should be split without having to go to court. This can help minimise both the emotional and financial stress of relationship breakdown as well as helping to minimise cost.
The starting point must always be disclosure of each person’s personal and business assets to ensure that everything is included in the ‘pot’ to be shared. Financial arrangements can be settled through a ‘clean break’, which ends the financial obligations between the couple if this is appropriate. Some form of maintenance payments may, however, be more suitable. These can be ongoing or for a fixed period of time. For more information see our website
Q. What happens if children are involved?
A. When you separate from each other, you will both continue to be parents. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the process of unravelling your marriage or relationship doesn’t stop you being able to co-operate on what is best for your children. A constructive approach through the divorce or separation will lay the best foundations for the children to feel settled with the new family relationships.
You know your children and so you will be best able to consider the effects of your break-up on them and together devise the most suitable living arrangements. Negotiation is important, as agreements reached together are more likely to work in the long term and be respected by the wider family.
If you can’t agree on the arrangements, you can ask the court to decide the matter. See our website for more details on children, contact and residence disputes.
Q. How do I deal with the emotional fallout?
A. Divorce is one of the most stressful events in our adult lives and the breakdown of a marriage invariably leaves those involved emotionally and physically drained. Good lawyers will be empathetic, but their role is to secure the best outcome for you. It is a advisable to build up a support network of family and friends to see you through the challenging times ahead. There are likewise support organisations and counsellors who are experts in helping you through the process.
If you have any comments, queries or concerns on divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce