The ‘Dos and Don’ts’ when going through a divorce
Going through separation and divorce is emotionally draining and it can be difficult to be objective.
It is estimated that approximately 40% of marriages end in divorce. Going through separation and divorce is emotionally draining and it can be difficult to be objective about what is ‘fair’ in terms of a settlement so we have outlined a few Dos and Don’ts.
• Put your children first. You are divorcing your spouse, not them and it is paramount that their relationship with both of you remains as positive as possible. Explain what is happening in a straightforward way, using language appropriate to their age.
• Remember that your divorce is yours and yours alone; other people’s experiences won’t necessarily be very helpful.
• Approach mediation (which is now mandatory) with a positive frame of mind. This can help you determine what really matters to you. You don’t want to end up in court unless absolutely necessary.
• Consider collaborative law. This is essentially a round table discussion with both parties and their collaborative lawyers in a non-confrontational format. This is a much better place to resolve future financial and family arrangements than the courtroom
• Choose a lawyer you like and trust but remember they are there to help you achieve the best outcome for you and not act as a counsellor.
• Be honest. Trying to hide assets or facts will simply extend the process and the cost and will not help you in the long run.
• Keep good financial records (including records of any debts) and draw up a list of assets, classifying them according to whether or not they are shared or were owned pre-marriage.
• Listen to your lawyer: they are much more likely to understand what is, and what isn’t, achievable.
• Update your will after the divorce.
• Look forward. Once the divorce is finalised, it won’t help you to move on if you are constantly reviewing the relationship and dwelling on the negative aspects, even if you are the injured party.
• Get hung up about the grounds for divorce. At present, there are only five grounds for divorce so, until the law changes (and there is a groundswell of support for the introduction of a ‘no fault’ divorce) you will have to opt for one of them (usually unreasonable behaviour) however uncomfortable and / or inappropriate it might seem.
• Rush into making big decisions, such as selling the family home, without weighing up the options as objectively as possible – difficult to do in such emotional circumstances but essential for the long term.
• Rely on your children (particularly older ones) for emotional support. They will be trying to come to terms with the divorce themselves and will be feeling vulnerable. There are many good counsellors trained to help people cope with the trauma of a divorce.
• Be adamant about what you will and what you won’t accept. You will have to compromise at some point so be prepared to do so, even if you are the injured party.
• Accede to your spouse’s demands without proper scrutiny or seeking your lawyer’s advice. You must be conscious of your future financial needs.
• Be greedy even if you are sorely tempted to ‘take your spouse to the cleaners’. A good lawyer will negotiate on the basis of a fair settlement and holding out for more than you are ever likely to get is counter-productive and expensive.
• Assume that you’ll need to end up in court. Lawyers will generally try and steer you away from having ‘your day in court’ as, not only is an expensive way of achieving the final outcome, it can make the process more confrontational and drawn out than it needs to be.
• Use your children as bargaining chips. Your spouse may suffer – but the children will suffer more.
• Go in for point scoring. Haggling over minor details just to prove a point will simply cost more and string out the process.
• Use your lawyer as a counsellor. They will be sympathetic but it is not the most cost-effective use of their time.