There is no such thing as a quiet Christmas in EastEnders. Christmas always seems to highlight the difficulties in the characters’ relationships. One of the most memorable moments was when Den served his wife Angie Watts with divorce papers on Christmas Day – believe it or not that was back in 1986! More recently it is the goings on between Max and Stacey that have hit the headlines.
Stacey and Martin may well have ‘Divorce Day’ at the back of their minds. This often refers to the first Monday that everyone returns fully to work, a day when family lawyers receive an influx of enquiries from couples wishing to separate. Many couples, particularly those with children, do not want to split up before Christmas, a time when families get together. Most put off announcing a separation until their family members have left.
The first thing to remember is that in reality, the decision to divorce or separate is not confined to a particular day. It might be that you and your partner have been living separate lives for quite some time and you now feel it is time to move on. In cases like this, a divorce can be a straight forward paper exercise – it doesn’t have to get nasty.
You will need to think about any children involved and how it will work after you separate. I am often asked how often the other parent should see the children. There is actually no right or wrong answer. It is what works for you and your children; if they enjoy seeing the other parent and it is safe for them to do so then regular contact should continue. Some couples continue to live in the same house – in this case there aren’t concerns about contact but rather the necessity for both parents to remain civilized and not involve the children in relationship issues. If one of you is moving out you will need to consider how best to organise for the children to see the other parent. This could be, for example, alternating weekends and arranging contact after school. Again, it is all about what arrangements work best for the children as well as you.
The next question is what happens to your finances. My advice is to break down your finances by thinking about things in order of priority. In the immediate term you need to think about what debts you have, such as outstanding loans and your mortgage. Remember, if the mortgage is in joint names, you remain liable for the full amount – even if your ex-partner used to pay. Try preparing a budget based on what you and your children need. Think about school fees; if you are not working you may need some additional support.
You will then need to think further ahead. Many of my clients are mostly concerned with the family home. There maybe be some immediate steps you need to take such as protecting your rights in the home – you may need to register something called a Matrimonial Homes Right. There will be other assets that you need to think about such as businesses, pensions and bank accounts.
So, how do you go about sorting out the family finances? If you are on speaking terms, then have a frank discussion about what should happen, if you can. Remember a ‘discussion’ is a two-way conversation and you do not have to agree anything at this stage. You can have help from an independent mediator who will act as a go-between. Whatever happens, you both need to be fully aware of each other’s financial position. Otherwise, how can anything you agree be fair?
Divorce may be on the cards for Stacey and Martin in 2018, and if you find yourself in the same situation and have any questions you can call me on 01392 284 851 to make an appointment. I can assess you for legal aid and in some emergency situations, you can be granted legal aid at our initial meeting. Even if you don’t qualify, your first appointment is always free. Appointments are available in Exeter or at our office in Taunton.