I feel my marriage is at breaking point. What is the first thing I need to do?
Talk to friends and family. They will provide you with emotional support throughout the process. It is also very important to find the right lawyer and this is where research is crucial. You should look for a lawyer that you can talk to and who you feel understands you and your situation.
Make a list of all of the assets, income and pension provision that you and your spouse have. Write down account numbers and providers so that you have all this to hand. It is not strictly necessary but can help later down the line.
Separation and divorce can often lead to antagonism and bitterness. How can this be avoided?
The key is to find a lawyer who will help resolve rather than encourage competitive behaviour. My maxim is “stop the shouting and start the talking.” The ethos of The Family Law Company is to look at each situation as a problem to be solved not as a battle to be fought.
Often such situations involve children and we understand that parents will have to meet at parents evening, graduations and weddings. There is no benefit in having a solicitor come in and stir up the process. We believe it is important to help people to divorce with dignity.
What if you hit a brick wall?
There are often sticking points during a divorce. And although we do not turn matters into a battle, we will take a firm line if we feel our client is being taken advantage of, being abused or the other person is attempting to hide money or assets.
I don’t want to go to Court, is there another way?
Court should always be the last resort and there are several other options:
- Mediation – you and your spouse meet with an independent mediator who is trained to resolve disputes. This can work quite well as you can reach an agreement that suits the two of you and the family rather than having a decision imposed by a Judge who does not know either of you.
- Collaborative Law – you both instruct your own lawyer and agree not to go to Court. You actively agree to sit down, talk and resolve your issues.
- Family Arbitration – you instruct a qualified arbitrator to make a decision about your case. You each have to instruct your own lawyers but means you don’t go to Court (which can take a long time and cost a lot of money).
What if we do end up in Court over financial matters?
This can still be sorted out amicably. Court should not be considered a hostile environment, it is there to set a very clear timetable for you both.
What are the key things to consider when deciding what is the best route?
Most important is what is in the best interest of any children. Also consider the level of cooperation between yourself and your spouse; do you trust them to fully disclose their financial circumstances or to you think they will try to hide assets or be untruthful.
In my experience, people usually behave in a divorce as they behaved in the marriage. If they have been unreasonable and secretive then they may well be the same during a divorce. Having said that, we prefer not to fight pointless arguments that simply run up large costs and cause difficulties in the future.
What can be done to make the process as painless as possible for the children?
Tell the children together so they can see that you are united in your approach. Think through the sorts of questions that your children might ask. Decide which questions you may not be able to answer and how you will explain that.
Allow the children to express their emotions, which could be tears, anger, pleading, promises of good behaviour, fear and denial. Do not intervene, but tell them you understand that it hurts, but you will try to help them so that it hurts less. Let them know the details of any future arrangements if you have agreed those. If you have not, reassure them that you will both work through that together.
Most importantly, tell your children that you will both go on being their parents and that you will always love them. Explain clearly that it is not their fault.
The cost of divorce worries me. How can this be kept down?
If you are on good terms you can negotiate your own agreement with your spouse. However, you will still need legal advice to check the terms of it are fair to you both and to ensure that it is written up into a Court Order so that it is binding upon you both.
The Family Law Company is aware that paying for a divorce is often of concern. We offer a range of fixed fees to cover legal advice, and your first appointment with us is free. Legal Aid is still available in some situations.
Rachel is a Director, and Head of Department for the divorce and finance team. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by telephone on 01392 457155.