While it can be great fun for some, the summer holidays can be a difficult time for other families, with family lawyers reporting a noticeable increase in divorce in the period straight after the holidays. I see first hand how difficult it is. It is right to feel emotional – be that hurt, anger, sadness or even grief for the end of a relationship; it would be odd not to. It is my job to help by being an emotional filter, so that together we can look at the bigger picture and tackle any decisions that need to be made to try and put life back together again.

My first piece of advice is to consult a specialist family lawyer as soon as you can. Often you will be able to have a free half hour consultation to talk about your situation. It is prudent to take advice before legally separating, as the timing of separation can have an impact on taxation issues. Separation in the latter part of the tax year can cause tax problems that are avoidable if early advice is taken.

A common question I’m asked by clients is how long the divorce process will take and how much it will cost. The answers to these questions depend on individual circumstances, but there are some things you can do to help speed up the process and as a result keep costs down. This mainly involves having an early, clear picture of the financial situation.

Some paperwork and information you should source early in the divorce process includes:

  • Pensions can now be shared on divorce so it is important to understand the value of pensions. You will need to obtain the CETV (cash equivalent transfer value) from your pension provider. This can sometimes take several months to be issued, so the earlier you ask for it the better.
  • Your state pension forecast, which you can obtain through forms BR19 and BR20 on-line; again this can take several months to come through.
  • Details of your life insurance position.
  • Your Will, as it is prudent to review this in light of a separation.
  • Up to date ISA and savings values. Depending on your saving habits, the current value may differ significantly from your last annual statement.
  • Current mortgage statement; again this needs to be as up to date as possible.
  • Details of income through payslips and P60s, or recent business accounts if you are self-employed or a business owner.
  • Details of any pre or post nuptial agreements.
  • Information about inherited wealth and assets acquired before the marriage; in some cases ‘pre-aquired’ wealth can be preserved and excluded from a financial settlement.

I know from speaking to my clients that taking the first step and contacting a lawyer can be hard – it means making something real that you may wish was not happening. However, I also know that for many, this step gives them back a sense of control in a stressful situation.

Liz Allen is one of the UK’s leading divorce solicitors. She is partner and head of the family team at Stephens Scown LLP in Exeter, which has been given the top ranking by independent legal guides Chambers UK and Legal 500. Liz features on the Citywealth Leaders List, an international guide to the most highly regarded figures in private wealth management. Stephens Scown is the current UK Law Firm of the Year from the British Legal Awards. To contact Liz or her team, please call 01392 210700, email family.exeter@stephens-scown.co.uk or visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk

This article first appeared in Devon Life, September 2017 issue