Three steps to a painless divorce
Three steps to a painless divorce
Some argue that the New Year is the busiest time of the year for new divorces, with many people apparently deciding to ‘do away with the old’ and make a new start in life by getting divorced.
We will not get into that argument, but if you are contemplating divorce then you will want to make it as painless as possible. Hopefully, the following tips will help.
The first thing to understand is that…
Divorce doesn’t have to be painful
It is a commonly held belief that divorce has to be painful, but is this true?
The breakdown of a marriage is almost always painful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all divorces are painful. Divorce is merely the legal process of dissolving the marriage and, more importantly, making the necessary arrangements for the future.
It is quite possible to get through the process without adding to the pain of the marriage breakdown. The secret is to agree matters, rather than argue them through the courts. And a little basic knowledge will help make agreement more likely. To explain, we will break the divorce process down into its main parts.
A divorce essentially involves three steps, assuming that there are dependent children and no domestic abuse issues. In order of importance they are:
Sorting out arrangements for the children
Obviously, when parents separate they will need to sort out arrangements for their children, in particular what time the children will spend with each parent. This may involve the children living with one parent and having contact with the other, or it may involve the children sharing their time between the two households.
Sorting out arrangements for children can be the most emotive aspect of divorce, which in turn can lead to parents behaving in ways that are not actually in the children’s best interests.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must put the welfare of the children first. Now, most parents involved in children disputes will insist that they are doing this, but you should try to take a step back and ask yourself: am I really doing this for the children, or am I just doing it for me? All too often it is the latter, perhaps motivated by a desire to ‘get back’ at the other parent.
The other important thing to understand is that the law expects children to continue to have as close a relationship as possible with both parents. Only in very exceptional circumstances will this not be the case.
If both parents understand and accept these two important things from the outset they are much more likely to be able to sort out arrangements by agreement.
And remember, if you can agree matters directly with the other parent, then you can always try mediation, rather than contested court proceedings.
Sorting out finances
The other matter that needs to be resolved is financial arrangements, including what is to happen to the former matrimonial home.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to sorting out finances by agreement is unrealistic expectations. By that we mean that each party will erroneously believe that they are entitled to more than the law provides for. A breadwinning spouse may, for example, believe that their financial contribution towards the marriage automatically entitles them to the lion’s share of the assets.
It may therefore come as a surprise to many that the starting-point in most cases is an equal division of the assets. Only if that is not appropriate will there be a departure from equality.
Understanding this basic concept will help parties to have more realistic expectations, and will therefore help them to sort out matters by agreement.
The divorce itself
Lastly, there is the divorce itself.
The most important thing here is to try to divorce without blaming the other party for the breakdown of the marriage. Blaming the other party only causes unnecessary ill-feeling, which impacts upon everything else. As discussed above, you will want to try to agree arrangements for children and finances if possible, and such ill-feeling will make it much harder to agree anything. And remember, whatever happens you will still have to deal with the other parent of your children, possibly for the rest of your life.
Under the current divorce law there are ways to avoid, or at least reduce, blame. If you have been separated for two years then you can divorce with the consent of your spouse. And even if you must rely upon your spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ to get divorced, you can try to ‘agree’ the behaviour allegations before issuing the divorce, in order to avoid unnecessary animosity.
Lastly, you could simply wait until the new no-fault divorce law comes into force, expected to be in the autumn. There will then be no need to play the ‘blame game’.
We try to help our clients achieve a painless divorce, by adopting a non-confrontational approach to family law matters. To find out more, and to get started with one of our specialist lawyers, click here.