February 3, 2012

How to conduct a well-mannered divorce – a guide too far?

By Peter Jones, Partner

How should you announce your divorce to family and friends? Is it really wise to flush your soon-to-be-ex-partner’s wine collection down the toilet? Just in case you’re not sure how to deal with such dilemmas, a new guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting through your divorce, politely.

This month Debrett’s, the publisher of guides to traditional British etiquette, is launching Debrett’s Guide to Civilised Separation, co-written by a group of Mishcon de Reya family lawyers. With one in three marriages ending in divorce some might say a guide on how to behave could be of value – but have we gone a step too far?

The forerunner to its modern etiquette guides, Debrett’s  ‘Peerage’ was first published in the 1780s when marriage was very different. Eighteenth Century couples would not have dreamed that such a guide could exist – and should it, really? Much of the advice offered, whilst very valid, is already available from specialist family law firms, in particular those which offer mediation and collaborative law.

The new guide suggests that “courteous and considerate behavior can help to reduce unnecessary animosity and distress”. Being reminded in print of the glaringly obvious is not especially helpful during one of the most stressful periods of an adult’s life. A good lawyer and/or mediator will deal with all these issues, usually face to face, in a sensitive manner tailored to a client’s circumstances.

There is a creeping trend towards micromanagement of other people’s lives: through dumbing down, aided and abetted by the media, individuals are rarely given the credit of being able to use their common sense or behave like adults. Instead we are constantly bombarded with often-conflicting advice on the dos and don’ts of modern life.

At Jones Myers we all agree on and understand the importance of families staying together but sometimes, despite everyone’s best intentions, there simply isn’t a future in a relationship. On the whole people know when they’re behaving badly; they don’t need to be told. What they need is someone to listen, provide support and advice and, if a reconciliation really isn’t on the table, to make every effort on their behalf to find a practical, amicable and non-confrontational resolution. 

Will you be buying Debrett’s new guide? Let us know below or email us here.