When a marriage or civil partnership comes to an end, spouses/civil partners and their children often face a raft of stressful events such as finding a new home, agreeing and arranging parenting schedules and of course, difficult decisions about the division of property and money. The emotions caused by these changes can make it difficult for those involved to understand the process of getting divorced and may even impair the ability to make sound decisions.
We strongly believe that getting through a divorce is easier if you’re informed about the process before it begins. For that reason, we’ve put together some guidance on the divorce/dissolution process.
Don’t Focus On ‘Punishing’ Your Spouse/Civil Partner
A lot of clients make it clear at the outset of their instructions that they want to punish their spouse/civil partner. The harsh reality is that there’s seldom a true winner in divorce as both parties are usually required to make some form of compromise.
A typical, modern-day divorce usually involves a number of diverse issues, such as child residency, maintenance payments and the division of any assets such as the family home and pensions. For that reason, it is rare for divorcing spouses end up with everything they want. For example, one spouse might be awarded residency of the children but may receive a much lower share of the assets of the marriage than originally requested.
Instead of focusing on ‘punishing’ your partner we would advise you to think about what you can agree on and start from there. It will make the whole process much easier and will reduce the emotional turmoil that divorce proceedings so often evoke.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Sometimes, divorcing spouses have goals that are completely unreasonable or inconsistent with the law. If you want your divorce case resolved quickly, you need to understand how the law applies to your case and have a reasonable expectation about the outcome. Your solicitor will seek to guide you through the process at your very first appointment to make sure you understand what lies ahead.
Forget the Past and Prepare for the Future
Obsessing about all of the bad things you feel were done by your spouse during your marriage will only prevent you from moving on with your life and will potentially hinder you in making decisions that are in you and your family’s best interests. We understand that it is hard, but try to forget the past and focus on the future. Approach the divorce/dissolution with a willingness to work with your spouse to achieve the best possible result for your family and/or each other.
It is easy to get hung-up on relatively insignificant matters such as how to divide the music collection or who is getting a particular item of furniture. From experience we know that during a difficult, emotional time these smaller issues can seem much bigger than they are however, putting so much energy into disputes over smaller items will only serve to increase the time (and legal fees) it takes to complete your divorce. Where possible, try to see the big picture - make some concessions on minor issues so you can spend more time on important matters, such as when you get to see your children or how to deal with the matrimonial home.
You’re Getting Divorced: Your Children Aren’t
When emotions are running high, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the heat of the moment and say something you would not ordinarily have said. You should however always be mindful that the things you say to your spouse/partner in the presence of your children can have a lasting effect.
Whenever you’re about to say something hurtful give yourself some time to think before you speak. A simple rule to follow is to count to ten before you answer a question or make a statement.
It is always worth bearing in mind that unless there’s a history of abuse or neglect, your children will continue to have a relationship with both parents. Therefore, no matter how upset you are with your spouse/partner, you should avoid discouraging a healthy parent-child relationship with your spouse.
You need to provide your solicitor with all key facts (good or bad) so that they can analyse your case properly and give you appropriate advice. If you try to hide something from your solicitor because you think it may go against you, it is likely that those facts may very well come out anyway by which point your failure to be up front may have already harmed your case and your ability to obtain a good result.
Similarly, you should be honest with your spouse. When starting divorce proceedings spouses must disclose complete information and documents regarding their income, expenses, assets and debts. There are serious consequences if you mislead the court.
Create an Inventory of Household Furniture and Furnishings and Make Copies of Important Documents
Disputes over furniture, furnishings and other valuable items, such as an expensive wine collection or an collectable piece of art, can be avoided by taking a complete inventory of your home.
Despite the strict rules for disclosure, some divorcing spouses will hide or destroy key documents such as pre-nuptial agreements. This problem can be avoided by making copies of important documents as soon as you decide to file for divorce, or learn that your spouse is doing so.
Engage in Mediation
Most people think all divorces end up in court – this is not the case! An important alternative to consider is Mediation – a process in which a mediator (a neutral third-party specially trained to work in divorce cases) facilitates face-to-face negotiations between divorcing spouses and helps them work out mutual agreements. The mediator will often recommend that each spouse consult with a solicitor while the mediation process is proceeding. However, your solicitor will not attend the mediation sessions with you.
The greatest benefit to choosing mediation is that they enable divorcing spouses to make their own decisions. In dividing parenting time, for example, a judge might choose a standard schedule that’s used in many other cases. In mediation spouses can structure a parenting plan that best fits their children’s needs.
Sometimes, however, court is the only way to resolve an issue. For example, if your spouse subjects you or your child to domestic violence, you will have to file a request for a protective order. Alternatively, if you need immediate financial assistance from your spouse, you might have to ask a judge to award you temporary child support. If so, it’s best to accept the fact that you need to go to court and consult with a solicitor who will guide you through the process.
Always Think Carefully About Important Decisions
Many life-changing decisions come up during a divorce, for example, you may have to determine whether to you need to sell the family home to enable both parties to move on with their lives or how you are going to divide the time spent with your children. Try to resist the urge to make a quick decision just to get the case over with. As with all important choices throughout our lives, it’s essential to consider the potential consequences, both short-term and long-term as you don’t want to regret a decision years later.
Don’t Believe Everything Other People Tell You About Their Divorce
Your family and friends may give you advice about what they believe should happen in your divorce, often based on their own experience. Unfortunately, as with most unqualified advice, the information and advice you get from other people can be misleading, outdated and sometime completely wrong.
Every separation has a different set of issues and involves different people. Your friends may believe what happened in their case is typical, but it’s best not to base your decisions on someone else’s experiences. Instead, rely on the advice you get from your solicitor who is familiar with the specifics of your particular case.
If you have any questions about divorce, separation or children matters why not take advantage of our free initial appointment with our specialist Divorce & Family Solicitor, Andrew Nelson.
Nelson Myatt Solicitor LLP
Suite 6, Conwy Business Centre
Llandudno Junction, Conwy, LL31 9XX