For the vast majority of people, going through a divorce is one of life’s most painful, stressful and difficult experiences. We’re well acquainted with the familiar statistic that 42% of marriages are expected to end in divorce, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier for the parties in a marriage when the relationship breaks down. We might read about celebrity couples “consciously uncoupling” and remaining close friends, but for many of us this is a distant reality from the experiences of friends and family. Is a successful separation an unrealistic goal, or is it possible to have a “good” divorce?
A recent article in the Times explored this question, with the author offering first-hand advice for separating couples. Her conclusion was that by taking steps such as actively protecting your children, embracing the future and dealing with emotions before going to court it might be possible to lessen the pain of divorce.
These are all sensible, practical steps that you can take to deal with some of the emotional difficulties that divorcing couples typically experience. We’re certainly not saying that it’s possible to have a “good” divorce or that you can lessen the pain and heartbreak of separation. However, from a purely legal standpoint there are some steps that you can take to help your divorce run more smoothly and achieve a better outcome for everybody involved.
1. Take charge of your finances
One of the biggest stresses associated with divorce is that caused by arguments and uncertainty surrounding money. This is often exacerbated where one party in the marriage has previously been responsible for the family’s finances.
By taking steps to understand your current financial position – and working out what you think you’re going to need in the future – you’ll make the divorce process much more manageable. You’ll be better equipped to go through the financial disclosure process and have a much clearer perspective when considering settlement offers.
2. Start planning for the future
A very practical step that you can take at the outset of a divorce is working out what you’re going to be doing once the marriage has ended. You should consider where you will work, where you will live and what arrangements you will make for the children.
This will help you to understand how much income and capital you’ll need to start your new life – and what kind of lifestyle to expect after divorce. It will also show you what kind of needs your spouse is likely to have.
3. Don’t necessarily expect a quick fix
Going through a divorce is not a particularly fast process, particularly if there are significant disputes between the parties or it becomes necessary to have property, pensions or businesses valued. Embracing this fact helps you to be realistic about what is to come. However, there are things that you can do to speed up a divorce, such as responding quickly and efficiently to correspondence from your solicitor.
4. Get support from the right people
Unsurprisingly, many people find going through a divorce to be one of the most difficult experiences of their life. It’s therefore vital that you get support from the right people. If your health is affected, for example, we often recommend that clients speak to their GP. For others, counselling is an important step. However, whilst it’s important to let your solicitor know about any relevant issues, remember that the legal system isn’t designed to resolve emotional conflict.
5. Try and be collaborative
One of the misconceptions about divorce is that it always ends up in protracted, expensive court hearings. This certainly doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, the vast majority of cases involve the parties reaching an agreement prior to the final hearing. By adopting a collaborative approach at the outset – including when you attend mediation and whilst considering potential settlement offers – most couples can save themselves time and money.
6. Get advice early
The better informed you are at the outset of a divorce, the more likely you are to achieve a positive outcome. Speaking to a solicitor early will help you to understand what a divorce involves and the steps that you should take to protect your assets and come to a fair and mutually beneficial outcome. We think that the advice a solicitor has to offer is so important that we’re prepared to offer the first 30 minutes of our time for free.
Dan is a trainee solicitor at Stephens Scown and his first seat is in the family team, based in the Exeter office. If you have any questions relating to this article, please contact the team on 01392 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.