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Key considerations for those contemplating divorce

Written by: Sarah Campbell
January is a miserable month - cold, wet and a long stretch until summer. It is also a peak time for relationship break-down. What should you consider before consulting a lawyer?

Recent statistics released by The Office for National Statistics in relation to divorces in England and Wales in 2016, demonstrated that the number of opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2016 (106,959) had increased from the previous year by 5.8% and that there has been a five-fold increase in the number of same-sex couples divorcing in 2016 (112), compared to 2015.  It is therefore sadly a reality that many marriages and civil partnership in England and Wales end in divorce.

Key considerations for those contemplating a divorce

Is it definitely what you want?

Sometimes people decide that a divorce is not actually what they want. Have all avenues, such as separation, marriage counselling, marriage coaching, psychotherapy etc. been exhausted?

Early legal advice

It is usually worth obtaining legal advice as soon as possible, even if it is general advice and if it gives you some idea where you would stand if you decide to divorce. The best advice would be to then sleep on it.

Stay “in the know” in respect of your finances

It isn’t unusual for individuals to have little knowledge regarding either their own or the other person’s finances. This can still be dealt with – through financial disclosure. However, it often assists individuals to know in advance and have all their paperwork in order. Consider what your financial assets are. What are your income needs? Independent financial advice, depending on the circumstances, may be appropriate.

Consider what you ideally want to achieve in respect of a financial settlement

Would it, for example, be your preference for you or your husband/wife/civil partner to stay in the family home? Would that be viable? How would it be funded?

Think about the arrangements for the children

What would your proposals be in relation to the arrangements for the children if you were to divorce?

Divorcing with dignity

Communication is key to achieving an amicable divorce. Many of the difficulties that occur during divorce are often due to a breakdown in communication and consequent misunderstandings. Try to remember the two of you used to be a team and you understood each other at one time.

However, it is usual that at least one person involved in the marriage breakdown feels aggrieved – either rightly or wrongly in each case, so think before you send that text/email. Would you be happy if those who knew you, knew you had said that? Would you be happy if your children saw you say such a thing to their mum/dad? Would you be able to justify it, if court proceedings are instigated and the other person draws the judge’s attention to your hostile communications? It is often important to take a step back. Perhaps mull things overnight or ask a sensible, impartial third party to assist with communications.

Divorcing with dignity is a great achievement and when reflecting it is likely to give you a sense of great achievement on reflection.

In aid of this, try to reach an agreement about as many aspects as you can. Examples are that you may be able to agree the grounds for divorce between you (it is often possible to agree on grounds that are palatable to you both) or agree the division of chattels (the cost of arguing about that aspect can often outweigh the value of them). Divorce proceedings don’t have to be a “battle” and in fact, many divorce cases settle outside of court. An agreement can be reached directly or through alternative dispute resolution methods such as a mediation, collaborative law or through solicitors’ correspondence. These options are all usually worth consideration.

Lastly, if you have children, keep them out of it. The most amicable divorces are generally those where the parties have been able to put their children first, despite the hurt and anger that the parties themselves may be feeling.

Sarah Campbell is associate in the family team at Wedlake Bell LLP

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