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The way a couple approach the initial stages of their divorce and separation of their assets often sets the tone for the remainder of the process. Avoiding the early pitfalls can save you and your ex-spouse significant time and money, and allow you to reach a resolution with less animosity, while reducing conflict and minimising confrontation.
Obtaining early legal advice can give you an evaluation and information from the outset of what a potential financial settlement might look like but, perhaps more importantly, can provide you with guidance as to the available methods to reach an agreement to enable a couple to find the solutions that work best for them based on their individual circumstances, equipping them with the knowledge that could be vital in achieving the most effective outcomes.
In addition, once you are aware of the parameters of a potential settlement and what can realistically be achieved during out of court negotiations, you can make an informed decision as to whether non-court options remain viable, or if a court timetable needs to be put in place to ensure an outcome can be reached that engages both of you to work towards settlement at the same time.
The breakdown of a marriage can result in the couple feeling grief for the end of their relationship at the same time that they are dealing with day to day practical matters. Contested court proceedings can exacerbate the situation as it demands a lot of attention and energy from the couple, leaving them unable to prioritise their wellbeing. In turn, they may be unable to properly process advice and make informed decisions and may decide to agree to a settlement for the sake of finalising the divorce with a view to relieving stress or pressure, rather than agreeing a settlement that would be regarded as being fair.
In these circumstances, leaning on a support network such as friends and family can be a helpful tool. In addition, your GP can signpost you to organisations and professionals who are well placed to assist or refer you to counselling. If you have children, it is even more important that you have support and space to process the end the of relationship so that you can hold space for your children and what they are experiencing as the family dynamic changes.
Maintaining a healthy dialogue with your ex-spouse can be tricky. In particular, you should always resist the temptation to instruct your solicitor to engage in a “trial by correspondence”, “lawyer up” or weaponise, which is unlikely to have any material benefit on the outcome of your settlement but can unnecessarily and needlessly inflame the situation even further. If communicating with your ex-spouse directly causes further anxiety and is unproductive, leave this to your respective legal advisers or communicate in the presence of a third party (such as a mediator).
If there are children involved, you should consider using a bespoke platform or parenting App that is focussed on the children’s needs (such as Our Family Wizard), which can help to filter out the inflammatory content and tone of communications.
It is easy to let emotions take over what is obviously an emotional time of your life. The court will not take into account behaviour and emotions in deciding or recommending on what it considers to be a fair financial settlement. Therefore it is vital to separate emotions from decision-making. It is a risky, expensive and most often a flawed strategy to pursue legal proceedings because you seek your “day in court”. Instead, take on board your solicitors’ advice on the realistic terms of a financial settlement and the method of reaching the same, take time to consider this, ask questions if necessary to satisfy yourself that any concerns have been taken on board, and then make an informed decision.
Immediately following separation, you may feel that you are unable or unwilling to speak with your ex-spouse, particularly where the separation has not been amicable. Mediation can be a good forum to focus your minds on the issues at hand, and the mediator can bring you back on track if the discussions become hostile. Mediation can be in shuttle form or hybrid, which lessens the potential confrontation and conflict which can otherwise result from a face-to face discussion.
You should explore the possibility of mediation (or other dispute resolution methods such as collaborative law) early on with your solicitor. Doing so may save you significant costs in the long term, even if you are just able to narrow down the matters in dispute.
Based on the above, it is clear that the majority of the pitfalls can be avoided by obtaining early legal advice and taking proactive steps to ensure you are aware of your options in respect of the divorce, financial matters and child arrangements (if relevant).
Once you have reached a settlement, it is important that this be recorded in a consent order so that both you and your ex-spouse have clarity and finality, and can move forward independently.
With the introduction of no-fault divorce in 2022, the focus nowadays should be on reaching settlements as amicably and constructively as possible, as blaming the other spouse for the breakdown of the relationship is no longer permitted nor is it helpful in achieving fairness.
Our specialist team of solicitors, mediators and collaborative practitioners are here to help you avoid the above pitfalls and guide you through the process in a way that is best for you and your family. Please contact our family solicitors Finchley to discuss your needs further. Our specialist team of divorce solicitors Finchley are here to help.